Heartbroken: Notre Dame de Paris Fire

Heartbroken about the terrible fire at Notre Dame in Paris. I watched in shock yesterday as the fire burned the iconic symbol of France, fearing total destruction. The word at this hour is that the Cathedral suffered terrible damage but was saved from total destruction. The beautiful rose windows and the 8,000 pipe great organ appear to have survived the blaze.

I’ve been to Paris three times and the Cathedral served as my beacon both geographically and spiritually. My first time in Paris, Notre Dame was the first landmark I sought out, and it served as my reference point to the great city. I spent hours there in awe, appreciating the Cathedral’s beauty, massive proportions, and historical significance from its 850-year history. I was not the first wayward soul to find direction from the great Cathedral.

Notre Dame is always welcoming. While some great cathedrals charge an admission fee, entry to Notre Dame is free. On photography, Notre Dame embraces visitors taking images of its historic interior, while other churches prohibit photos. On vacation in Paris in 2012, I obsessed over photographing the great structure as my newfound hobby was developing. Getting unobstructed interior views posed a challenge; Notre Dame is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France, with 13.6 million visitors in 2012, which amounts to about 37,000 people per day. To avoid crowds for unobstructed photos of the center aisle (nave) and chancel, I got to the Cathedral early, before the posted 8 am opening. On my visits, the entrance door was open around 7:45 am with nobody to prevent me from entering early. There were just a few visitors and staff in the massive Cathedral at that time. It was a strange feeling being almost alone in this historic, massive structure. I took a number of photos, posted on my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com. I’ve always wanted to go back, with ideas on shots I missed, such as closeups of the great stained glass windows with a long lens.

Notre Dame de Paris fire

Notre Dame Cathedral Center West Portal, 2012. Click for more photos.

We can be thankful that there were no casualties from the fire and the Cathedral will be rebuilt, according to French President Emmanuel Macron within five years.

In an address to the nation just before midnight, President Emmanuel Macron said the worst had been avoided, that the exterior structure had been preserved and that the cathedral would rise again. “I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” he vowed. “Notre Dame of Paris is our history,” Macron continued, emphasizing the structure’s unique place in the national imagination. “The epicenter of our lives. It’s the many books, the paintings, those that belong to all French men and French women, even those who’ve never come.”

This is not the first time Notre Dame will be restored. The Cathedral suffered terrible damage during the French Revolution. The restoration took place in the mid-1800s, encouraged by public sentiment from Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I look forward to returning to the new grand Cathedral.

Notre Dame de Paris fire

Notre Dame Cathedral South Rose Window, 2012. Click for more photos.

Notre Dame de Paris fire

Chapel at Notre Dame Cathedral, 2012. Click for more photos.