On April 15, 2019, millions of people around the world watched in helpless horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was engulfed with flames. It was undergoing a restoration work when the fire broke out. Although the Cathedral was not totally destroyed, its wooden roof was totally burned together with much of its interiors. After the fire, unprecedented amount of donations poured in not just from France but from around the world to help reconstruct the Cathedral.
What’s the all the fuss about the Cathedral? Why are people from different parts of the world, even non-Catholics, greatly affected with what happened?
The Notre Dame de Paris, meaning Our Lady of Paris in French is very popular because of its architectural, historical and religious significance.
The Cathedral in Paris is the most visited site in Paris (not the Eiffel Tower) with roughly about 35,000 people visiting the 800-year old Cathedral every day. That is about 13 million a year!
It is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages in France. Although the first foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III in 1163, it took almost 200 years for the church to be finished. It is also famous for its 8,000 pieces pipe organ which is one the largest in the world.
It is located in the heart of Paris in a small island called Île de la Cité. The island is surrounded by the River Seine. The location of the Cathedral is the Point Zero of French Roads meaning it is the point of reference or measurement to all destinations in the city of Paris.
It is one of the greatest monuments of Christianity. One of the most important relics of Christendom, the Crown of Thorns can be found in the Notre Dame. The Crown of Thorns was the crown placed in the head of Jesus before he died. Other relics include a fragment of the wood of the cross and one of the nails used in the crucifixion.
Beyond its religious significance, it served as witness to the rich history of France. It is the place where the first settlements where. It is also the site of French coronations. Napoleon had himself crowned in Notre Dame. It survived the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and the two World Wars.
Although it was badly damaged during the French Revolution, the success of Victor Hugo’s novel “The hunchback of Notre Dame” paved the way for its restoration. Quasimodo’s fame led to public outcries that helped preserve the church.
Notre Dame is more than a structure. It is a symbol of the people of France. It is a symbol of the Catholic faith. It is a work of art. It is a part of history. It is part of the heritage of not just the French but of humanity.