This is our history and it’s burning

By | Category: Travel destinations

These were the words of the French president last night as –like hundreds of thousands of other French people watched the Cathedral of Notre Dame burn.

Notre Dame before the fire and as many of us would prefer to remember it

It was just before 11pm French time last night when the public was told that Notre Dame in Paris had been saved from complete destruction. Just half-an-hour earlier both a firefighter and the deputy interior minister were not quite so sure.

But then in the confusion of fighting a major fire, it is easy for confusion to be the winner

Notre Dame was such a landmark that, last night, it was easy to wonder what if anything would survive. But in the cold light of day and, although Paris looks a little odd without the spire of the cathedral, it seems that things aren’t as bad as last night suggested.

The wooden roof has gone but the stone fabric looks secure. It is known that some of the great treasures like the crown of thorns and the fragment of the cross were saved. Many statues had already been removed due to the restoration works that were underway. It will only be in the next few hours and days that the building will be properly explored so that we can see what has survived.

On this side of the channel memories of York Minster, Windsor Castle and the Glasgow School of Art came flooding back. In France memories of Rheims cathedral that also survived a large fire might have enetered people’s minds. In all these cases restoration happened even though it took years. Parisian, French and UNESCO officials are probably beginning their initial thoughts of what can be rebuilt.

As one of the leading tourist attractions in France, one of the major tourist attractions in Europe and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Banks of the Seine, Notre Dame had more than religious significance. Its historical links with the crowning of Napoleon, the marriages of many French monarchs (including that of Francis II to Mary Queen of Scots) indicate its importance as an iconic symbol. Recently it has been closed to tourists on a few weekends due to the violence that has, on occasion, accompanied the demonstrations of the “yellow vests.” It survived that, two world wars, the Franco-Prussian War, the French Revolution and Huguenot and religious troubles in the sixteenth century to name just a few events over the last eight and a half centuries.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt. It will take time just as York Minster and Windsor Castle did. And it will still remain a tourist attraction.

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