Notre-Dame des larmes

Our Lady of tears

They gathered by Ile de la Cité in shock, hundreds and thousands of the faithful, the curious, tourists and locals. For believers and non-believers alike, the gut punch of seeing nearly 900 years of history going up in flames was too painful to bear.

The words in French expressed deep grief and shock. “On est meurtri,” said Stéphane Bern, France’s Monsieur Culture, moved to tears during an interview. Bruised, injured, struck down. That this monument, Notre-Dame de Paris, the most-visited site in France, possibly in the world, should be so ravaged by flames when it had survived eight centuries of history, come through bombings and world wars.

When its proud spire fell, the gasp was audible. Hands flew up to cover faces, the emotion beyond words. It was a knife to our collective heart.

The timber roof structure was called ‘la forêt’ as it was a virtual forest of hardwood beams, each representing a single tree. Work was underway to renovate this structure, known in French as la charpente. Although it had stood strong for hundreds of years, it wasn’t in that good shape and any work on it represented a certain risk. That is why last year, a dry run was held of simulated crisis with a plan in place to save its priceless treasures.

Dieu soit loué, thanks be to god, they were able to get most of the icons and paintings out in time.

So many tears fell around the world as this beautiful building was saved by the brave Paris firefighters through the night. This morning, they are saying that the cathedral’s structure is still sound. It will take decades to rebuild but I have faith in this country and its passion for history that it will be restored to its former glory.

Thanks to all who said a prayer or shed a tear for this grand old lady.

Do you have a memory, recent or far off, of Notre-Dame de Paris?


  1. phildange · April 16, 2019

    I am down . Since yesterday evening there is a pain in my stomach that did not leave when I woke up, it’s still the same . I spent a year in Paris in 80 and I endlessly walked by and stopped to watch and feel this place, day or night . When I thank of Paris, the eternal idea of Paris, I saw Notre-Dame before everything else, never the Eiffel Tower .
    I am not into religion at all but I am into spirituality and it is this part of me that is atrociously smashed, like if the “soul” of old France had been severely bruised . There is a dark cloud around and inside little Phil .

    • MELewis · April 16, 2019

      I am so sorry for your pain, Phil. In some small way, I share it. Notre-Dame is the true heart and soul of Paris and it feels like has been literally attacked. My year in Paris was 1986. It was very long ago and I am not religious either but this place stays with you… 💔

  2. Colin Bisset · April 16, 2019

    It’s been on my mind all day, after waking to the terrible news, and seeing the fleche topple. But cathedrals are always burning – York Minister had its calamity recently, Norwich’s stones are reddened by its numerous fires – and they always rise again. My thought is that it might just unite the country in some way…

    • MELewis · April 16, 2019

      I thought this too, but hardly dared to hope….

  3. Caffe · April 16, 2019

    It is so sad. I have never been in France, never seen Notre – Dame. It is on my list must see.
    But I’ll never see it in previous, original version.
    Such precious place for everybody.

    • phildange · April 16, 2019

      Don’t be too sad my friend . There are several huge Gothic cathedrals in France, and Paris was among the major mystical four with Chartres, Reims and Amiens . But its importance came for a good part from the fact it was in the capital, so great historical events were held there .
      Chartres is the top for me and many people . It was built on the umbilicus of the Gauls, “l’ombilic des Gaules”, the focal central point of telluric streams from all Gaul where every year Druids from all different Gauls gathered . Reims, on another side, is the place were all French kings were crowned since Clovis, the first “French” king, was christened there in 497 AD and France became a Christian nation ..

      • Caffe · April 16, 2019

        I hope that in the next year I will spend my holidays in France. We delay it in time because we are afraid of bad weather. We run away where it’s warmer 🙂 But next year must be in France!

  4. francetaste · April 16, 2019

    The architecture was designed to impress, to put us in our place. It’s why it’s such an important site to so many people.
    I read an interview with the fire chief, who said they focused on keeping the flames away from the towers. And luckily the stained glass windows seem to have mostly survived.

    • phildange · April 16, 2019

      Yes, the fact the towers and the structure are still here makes a hell of a difference, and I was anxious about the stained glass windows, les vitraux, but you reassure me . Do you know if the big “rosace”, the huge round window between the towers, is still here too ?

  5. Garfield Hug · April 16, 2019

    I am so sorry to you and France for the sad fire that blazed Notre Dame. I am thankful no one was gravely injured or died. To happen during Holy Week of Lent is even sadder as I am sure many were looking forward to Easter celebration there. Blessings as France rebuilds this icon.

    • MELewis · April 17, 2019

      Thanks, my friend! The timing is certainly momentous for all who celebrate Easter. President Macron has promised we will rebuild this grand monument within 5 years. It will be challenging but I believe we can do it!

      • Garfield Hug · April 17, 2019

        I hope all goes smoothly and well.

  6. Liz · April 16, 2019

    I felt a deep sadness while listening to the news yesterday. Having this happen during Holy Week somehow makes it worse for me. I have pulled out my pictures of the cathedral from my 1980’s trip… time to revisit through memories.

    • MELewis · April 16, 2019

      Oh yes, I can only imagine the significance this unfortunate timing has for Catholics! I saw an interview with the arch-bishop of the cathedral who said that one day God would give him the answer but probably not before he saw him in heaven. 😢

  7. Dale · April 16, 2019

    A sad, sad day, indeed. To think I am supposed to be in France RIGHT NOW… I had a cooking trip planned for the first week of April and then two weeks on my own to roam. Paris, and Notre Dame, were definitely on my list. I am heartbroken.

    • MELewis · April 17, 2019

      Oh, my…what happened? So sorry your trip was cancelled, Dale, if that is the case. Bad timing indeed. The good news is we will rebuild, Notre-Dame is still standing and Paris awaits!

      • Dale · April 17, 2019

        I said it! My house didn’t sell so I cancelled it. And good thing too because that’s when it did sell!
        And I will go one day, that’s for sure.

      • MELewis · April 17, 2019

        Congrats on the house sale! Sounds like a massive milestone that needed your full attention. 🤗

      • Dale · April 17, 2019

        It is. So much so.

  8. Heide · April 16, 2019

    Thank you for this beautiful and hopeful post. It felt like a literal gut punch when I heard the news yesterday. I cried more last night than I have in years, as each photo revealed more damage and more loss. But … thanks to the skill and courage of those brave firefighters, and thanks to the speed with which so many others flew into action, the loss is nowhere near as grave as it could have been. “Thanks be to God,” as they say during Mass here in the U.S. As for my own memories: The most recent is from an apartment on the rue Chanoinesse, where Our Lady was my constant companion both day and night. The bells. The pigeons. The way she changed a thousand times every day, as the light bathed her in blue and amber. I am immensely grateful for the privilege of having lived in her shadow, if only for a few days. May she rise again …

    • MELewis · April 17, 2019

      Merci, Heide! You capture the magic so well, both in words and photos. It is moving to witness such an outpouring of support. Vive Notre-Dame!

  9. Elyse · April 17, 2019

    MEL. My heart bleeds for Our Parisian Lady. She was our first stop when Jim and I visited glorious France all those years ago. I pray this sorrowful passion will transform our hearts and unite humanity. We so desperately need it. With love from Saint Augustine. Elysee, l am today!

    • MELewis · April 17, 2019

      Élysée! My dear friend, it is a terrible tragedy but a silver lining to hear from you again! What memories of that time, eh? I was looking at the photos from your visit the other day — amazed that our kids were so young (and us, too!). It has been too, too long. Macron says it will take 5 years to rebuild the lovely Notre-Dame. Can we set a date to meet in Paris in 2024? Gros bisous! 😘

  10. Joanne Sisco · April 17, 2019

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Paris, but it seems every time I come to France something bad happens. We’ve been in stunned silence watching both the Canadian and French news outlets.

    There just aren’t any words, are there? 😢

    • MELewis · April 18, 2019

      A terrible tragedy and I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of concern from abroad. Living in France we tend to forget that the heritage here belongs to humanity. I hope it will be rebuilt within the 5 years Macron has promised!

      • Joanne Sisco · April 18, 2019

        Sadly, I think that timeline might be overly optimistic. If it was North America, the lawsuits alone would take longer than 5 years 😕
        You are right though about the shared heritage. I think most people who have been to Paris feel that the city is now a part of them.

  11. Al in France · April 17, 2019

    I’m not religious at all, but have a sense of ‘spirituality’, and I certainly feel a sense of loss with this fire and damage, but at the end of the day, as beautiful and historic as Notre dame de Paris is, it is a building which CAN and I hope WILL be rebuilt to the same glory as before. The main thing for me is that it could have been a lot worse.

    • MELewis · April 18, 2019

      You are right — mortar and brick can be rebuilt. Much was preserved and we are fortunate that no lives were lost. Like you, I am not religious but consider myself spiritual and enjoy the sense of connection I feel in such historic places of worship. We can be sure that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt, and we have no reason to believe this was anything but an accident. For now, it seems to be one topic upon which the French feel great unity. Every cloud!

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