We weep for you, Our Lady of Paris

By

Opinion

April 16, 2019 - 10:00 AM

Smoke and flames rise from Notre-Dame Cathedral Monday night in Paris, France. A fire broke out in the afternoon and quickly spread across the building, collapsing the spire. The cause is yet unknown but officials said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work. Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images/TNS

The first time I saw it, I could barely breathe. It was so beautiful against the cerulean sky. Our Lady of Paris. It looked like a mass of lace, draped over scaffolding, with giant crystal kaleidoscope windows. I fell in love with a building that was the heart of a country.

Notre Dame de Paris was never just stone and glass, an inanimate observer of history. It seemed to have a beating heart that pulsed with the generations of people who prayed under her vaulted ceilings, knelt on her cold stone floor, blessed themselves before statues in dark alcoves or simply walked along the Seine and gazed at its solemn, eternal beauty. Even an agnostic could not turn away from the radiance.

I spent a year living in Paris, and visited the church every day. It wasn’t devotion to faith. It was an obsession with this place that rose above the kitschy nature of the outside pavilion with tourists buying plastic keychains and gaudy rosaries and bad reproductions of saints on pillows. Notre Dame did not care about the world that passed beneath her stone facade, didn’t take notice of the changing demographic that swirled around her.

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