I couldn’t believe what I was looking at yesterday. At first I thought it was something on my news feed about the Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s recent hot streak. Well, Nope! This was very literal. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame’s famous towering spire was splitting in half, crashing into a wall of flames and smoke. Centuries-old craftsmanship was tumbling into a pile of wet ash hundreds of feet below. Paris was once again mourning. I felt sick to my stomach.
I last visited Paris in 2015 and stayed at a hotel about five minutes from Notre-Dame. I remember taking my time walking around the sanctuary, reading each entry in the long and winding historical timeline on display around the space. Long before yesterday’s inferno, that building had been through quite a lot: an astonishing 850 years worth of history. It was already HUNDREDS of years old once the European Renaissance kicked into high gear. Most of the wooden beams tucked away below the led roof and above the vaulted stone ceiling were original, but not all that burned was as ancient. For example: the spire was designed and constructed in the 19th Century as part of a “modernization” of the cathedral. Who knew? It actually could’ve been so much worse.
So now what? I’m excited about what’s going to happen next with Notre-Dame. It’s an amazing opportunity to redesign the structure in a way that enhances it (like the flying buttresses and spire editions in the 1800s), but also modernizes it for the 21st century. I’m choosing to be extremely optimistic about this; it’s the ultimate “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” moment. A rebuilt (again!) and modernized (again!) Cathedral of Notre-Dame will make the whole world a slightly happier place. Is that too much to ask?
I think it might be. I will ask anyway.