On April 15th 2019, two thirds of the roof and the spire of the Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire. 850-year-old wood was engulfed in flame and crumbled around the roof’s Gothic arches. All tourists and attendants were successfully evacuated. Although two police officers and a firefighter were injured, no one was killed.
The stunning center rose window within the cathedral was kept intact. All of the artworks, sacraments, and statues have been saved or had been moved to different locations before the fire. The raging flames were likely started by an accident.
Mere hours after the fire began, two French millionaires, Francois Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault, each pledged over $100 million for the restoration of the cathedral. Several other donors from across Europe have also pledged huge amount of euros, causing some backlash and raising the question–Where were these donations during the Syrian crisis? Why haven’t these funds been directed towards other destroyed monuments in poverty-stricken countries?
As disheartening as it is to see charitable efforts turn political and hypocritical, there actually was some good that came from Notre-Dame’s publicity. After tweets began circulating about the destruction of several black churches in Louisiana, celebrities and activists started rallying for donations to be directed towards the smaller community rather than the already well-funded cathedral. The GoFundMe page for the repairs soon skyrocketed from below $50,000 to $1 million.
There were also some small miracles that occurred within the rush to salvage Notre-Dame’s treasures. The chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, who had previously comforted and assisted the survivors of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack, rushed into the burning building to save two holy relics from the wreckage. The three hives each containing 60,000 bees living inside the cathedral’s roof miraculously survived the collapse. The bees were planted there in 2013 as part of a biodiversity project and have become an integral part of inner Paris’s urban ecosystem.
Amid the panic, worry, and confusion over the burning of Notre-Dame, a few things are certain. The damage is not so bad that it cannot be repaired, and with the millions of dollars of donations, the gorgeous cathedral is in good hands. This is not the first time Notre-Dame has suffered damage, and being the resilient structure she is, she’ll be able to hold up for years to come. Notre-Dame may not be exactly the same once the repairs are complete, but she is just another example of how national heritage evolves with its people. Lastly, there is hope that the overwhelming support for the repairs of Notre-Dame will send ripples of change and awareness for other heritage sites and unique artworks that must be guarded, restored, and internationally loved.
Happy Easter –Sophia Valdez