Is the Heart of Paris Burning?

July 18, 2019, Home — This past April 15, I had spent the day on an excursion to the Khaya La Bantu Xhosa village in East London, South Africa, hearing a talk about various aspects of the life of the Xhosa tribe, watching the Xhosa women and children dance, and sharing lunch with them.

At dinner that night, aboard the Sun, a woman at a neighboring table had her phone out and said, aloud, to no one in particular: ‘Notre Dame is burning.’ Silence in the dining room, as people pulled out their phones. More silence.

I’ve been a Francophile since I started French lessons in 6th grade. I shot this in 2015:

I bet most of the well-traveled people in that dining room on the Sun had been to Paris at least once. This news was devastating, and it cast a pall over the evening’s dinner.

This New York Times article ran yesterday, July 17. It’s a fascinating account — with remarkable photos and schematics — of what went on in and around the cathedral that night. Type in this link and select the story at the top of the list. It’s worth reading:

The article concludes:

‘Still, more than a few wondered why at a time when citizens were taking to the streets protesting inequality and economic hardship, when so many were dying in distant wars and on migrant boats sailing for Europe, should Notre-Dame matter.

But Notre-Dame was more than a building. It rests on Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine River where Paris was born. Made and remade over the centuries, it remains a focal point of French culture that has responded to the demands of each age it has passed through.

And in the present moment, it represented an unbreakable link with what, for many French, is the essence of their increasingly fragile nationhood.

“Notre-Dame is good and old: Perhaps we’ll even see her bury Paris, whose birth she witnessed,” the poet Gérard de Nerval once said.

That was back in the 19th century.

That sense of the cathedral as a living, wounded entity has only intensified since the fire.

“First off, this is all about our fragility,” Monsignor Chauvet, the rector, said on reflection. “We are as nothing. The fragility of man, in respect to God. We are nothing but — creatures.”’

I will return to Paris next June... and I will make a pilgrimage to Notre Dame. I hope to see that she has been, at least partially, re-born... #

©2018, 2019 Susan Nash/PassePartout
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