Notre Dame Survives, Mostly

Like Paul, I was stunned by the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. Unlike Paul, whose wife is from Paris and who has spent a lot of time there, I have never been to Paris and have not seen Notre Dame. So I have no personal connection to the cathedral. Nevertheless, I was devastated at early reports that Notre Dame was likely to be a total loss.

More recent news is more optimistic. The New York Post headlines, “Photos show center of Notre Dame cathedral miraculously intact.”

Photos from inside Notre Dame show the central part of the historic Gothic cathedral still intact.

Rows of wooden pews and much of the nave appears to have been saved, according to the images, which were released on the Paris cathedral’s Twitter account.

“Only a small part of the vault collapsed. Interior seems relatively untouched. Hallelujah!” wrote @CathedralNotre.

Hallelujah indeed.

Luckily, a number of statues on the exterior of the cathedral had been removed on account of the ongoing renovation. It is now reported that the cathedral’s priceless art works have been salvaged, and as far as I have been able to tell, the cathedral’s gorgeous stained glass windows–as Paul noted–have survived the fire.

As have the cathedral’s famous relics–part of the One True Cross, and the crown of thorns with which Roman soldiers tormented Jesus. I am a Protestant, which means that I believe that Jesus died on the cross and wore a crown of thorns. But I think it is almost inconceivable that any part of the cross, or the crown of thorns, would have been preserved for more than a millennium and find its way into Notre Dame. We Protestants find the whole relic culture rather bizarre.

But many people whom I respect–to take just one example, the excellent columnist Salena Zito–take Notre Dame’s relics seriously:

On their behalf, I am glad that the relics have survived. And I particularly appreciate the big-hearted sympathies of Paul and other Jews who recognize the pivotal role that Notre Dame has played in the Western civilization from which we have all benefited so much.

We can all be grateful that Notre Dame will mostly survive. Still, as Paul said, the reconstruction effort will take years, and where there is fire there is usually also water, which often does more damage than the fire. It will take some time to sort out what survives and what does not. No doubt, it will be years before Notre Dame is fully restored. But we can be grateful that most of that magnificent edifice appears to have survived.

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