The Notre-Dame Cathedral is not the first priceless architectural masterpiece to face destruction. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was destroyed by earthquakes. In modern times, many architectural wonders s especially in Syria and Iraq have been ravished by war, most notably many churches and Mosques in Mosul. But in the west there has not been such outpouring of grief over a building as there has been with the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Countless photographs, news articles, and videos were posted all over social media as people collectively grieved the partial loss of Notre-Dame.
This is obviously for good reason. Perhaps nowhere in history has a building been ingrained in our lexicon. It is the epitome of romanticism in the most romantic city in the world. Victor Hugo immortalized the building in his classical novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame which was turned into a Disney movie to be enjoyed by countless generations.
Notre-Dame has an amazing history – a medieval Catholic cathedral that began construction in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was mostly completed a hundred years later, although it was continually modified for centuries. This is not the first time trouble has befallen the cathedral. In the 1790s, many of the religious images were destroyed during the French Revolution.
As the smoke cleared around Notre-Dame, there is a collective sigh of relief that hundreds of firefighters were able to save some of the centuries-old Gothic landmark from complete collapse. These firefighters fought bravely, risking their lives to save Notre-Dame. However, there is still uncertainty over just how much irreplaceable history and culture is gone forever.
The magnitude of the loss in Paris is huge. Not only is the skyline now changed, but so much history has potentially disappeared. Many of the cathedral's statues and sculptures which are built into the wall have been destroyed or are at risk. Some of them, near the entrance, appear to have survived the fire. Thankfully, some bronze statues were removed from the cathedral last week, which was undergoing renovations, and are believed to be safe. Artworks that were removed from the cathedral during the blaze were first moved to the city town hall and will now be transferred to the Louvre Museum where they will be put on display.
There is little doubt that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt but it will never be the same. For those who visited the cathedral before the fire can count themselves among the lucky. For those who have not seen the majestic gothic building, you will, most likely, feel a sense of loss for not seeing it in its original form. That, if nothing else, is a shame for everyone.