Opinion: The burning of Notre Dame is a global loss


That is the only word I have to describe how I felt as the notification came up on my phone that the Notre Dame of Paris was engulfed in flames. The Cathedral that has been an icon of the Paris city skyline for centuries went up in smoke in just one horrific evening, Monday April 15.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Griffin of The Independent UK

Photo courtesy of Andrew Griffin of The Independent UK

A year ago I was blessed to be on a spring break trip through Europe with 45 classmates and teachers. Our final day of the trip was spent in Paris at Notre Dame. It was Sunday, March 25, 2018 - Palm Sunday. Now a year later, just one day after Palm Sunday, the Notre Dame was on fire.

The burning should spark a feeling of sadness and loss for everyone. Whether it be the religious meaning, the architecture of Notre Dame or just the pure iconic value of the building; the pain of the loss of this building is one people will and should feel.

Photo by me March 2018

Photo by me March 2018

You don’t need to be religious to understand and realize the importance this church has on the world. Over six thousand worshipers could fit inside the cathedral and Catholics journey to the monument every year as part of their faith experience.

I grew up as a catholic and going inside a building with so much history was mind-blowing. Notre Dame is home to many significant Christian relics including, what's believed to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ, part of the true cross and a nail used to crucify Jesus. Being in the building with objects so connected to christian faith was surreal. Knowing how long those artifacts have been around was hard to wrap my head around.  

It’s unclear just how long it will be until Notre Dame can once again be home to relics and worshipers alike.

Beyond being a church, Notre Dame was an architectural feat that may never be replicated in the modern age. The iconic spire we saw fall may be rebuilt but it will not be the same. The wood burnt today has survived since the 13th century and is now nothing but dust and ash.

The stone structure has reportedly been saved and is sound at this time. But knowing a new roof is needed leaves me wondering, again, how long it will be until Notre Dame is able to be seen at its former glory with no scaffolding. It may be years before the original and the new architecture are on full display together.

Lastly, the pure iconic value of the building is another true loss. Any skyline photos of Paris shows the cathedral and it’s one of the most visited locations in the city.

I didn’t go to a Catholic school and my spring break trip was made up of an array of religious opinions, from no faith to the most devout. That hardly mattered as we all lined up that Sunday morning to be ushered inside the colossal building. It doesn’t take a Christian upbringing to realize the magnitude of the building. From the two front bell towers to the famous flying buttresses to the grand altar located inside the church, we all walked in awe in and around the grand building. We all gazed and gawked as we strolled and took tourist pictures with cheesy smiles outside. It never occurred to any of us that the church might one day be ablaze.

Photo of me with Notre Dame and the large spire in the back

Photo of me with Notre Dame and the large spire in the back

I feel numb to my core knowing now that if I ever go back to this landmark of my faith, it will never be the same. My heart goes to the people of Paris knowing they will see everyday the aftermath of the fire.

In the wake of a tragedy of this magnitude it's appropriate to feel sad and even a sense of loss. No deaths are reported in relation to the event, which is a miracle, but it's still a loss. A loss of a religious gathering place, an architectural feat and an icon of Paris. I think Catholics, Parisians and the world alike can all mourn. We mourn a loss in history.

VoicesHeidi Stang