Our Lady Burns

“NO NO NO!” I shouted when the image came up on my computer home screen.

It simply couldn’t be true. Like a bad dream. Like a slow motion train wreck. I stared at the images online and read the horrifying news.

Then turned away.

It was too hard to accept.

I lived in Paris in the winter of 79/80. I visited Notre Dame too many times to count. Even if I was simply walking past it – I never failed to take a moment to pause and admire the structure.

I immediately assumed it was some sort of ‘roofing’ accident. I knew it was under restoration – and that the old lead-lined roofs required ‘hot processes’ to repair and replace. Am I right? The investigation is out – but I give zero credence to the conspiracy theories swirling around. “It was THIS faction! It was THAT faction!” and of course the ever popular “It was a FALSE FLAG ” staged by whatever group is least likely to have done it – but lying squarely in the accuser’s personal gun sights.

The accounts I’m reading today, give some hope that the damage was not ‘catastrophic’ – in the sense that the structure was an entire loss and will be razed to the ground for safety’s sake. It will be rebuilt after all. Of course nothing can replace the ancient timber and handiwork. That is gone forever.

It will take an enormous amount of money.

And it will take time.

Lots and lots of time.

What took a lifetime to build (roughly 80 years) likely will not be rebuilt in my lifetime. And that saddens me. Modern technology can speed some elements of the original construction process – but really – it’s the personal craftsmanship – the stone masons and carpenters and stained glass artists – that made it a work of art. Hopefully enough master craftsmen will be found to address this great need. And perhaps – just perhaps – more skilled labor will come of it as individuals step up to apprentice under the limited number of master craftsmen that are available.

We’re planning a return trip to Paris this year. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about seeing the structure in it’s current condition.

Life is all about letting go. And I have my memories of course.

This one is hard.


If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. ~Ernest Hemingway

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