Yepp, my friends, that is exactly the first line of Les Cloches, that fantastic song from the second act of the amazing Notre Dame de Paris musical and it exactly describes what everybody seems to be feeling right now – a deep sense of sadness and grief over the loss of that world-famous church building.
Now I’m not religious and my interest in visiting places of worship is therefore certainly limited. In fact unless someone drags me along or explicitly invites me I try to avoid such situations, as I consider it an impolite intrusion on people of faith’s very personal relationship with whatever higher power they seek counsel. Similarly I’m not that guy to obsess over architectural details, relics or pieces of art in these buildings. I can appreciate such things as an achievement of their time, but I’m not one to obsess about it. It just doesn’t connect.
Where it gets personal, though, is indeed my unusual (for a German) love for certain types of French music, including the aforementioned Comédie Musicale, as well as my own connection to Paris through several trips. I never joined the lines to get inside, but inevitably when roaming around Paris you can’t possibly avoid at least passing by Notre Dame every once in a while even if you are just exploring other parts of the city. Even with such a superficial connection I was shocked to see it go up in flames, regardless, and at TV primetime, no less, and in the week of weeks for many devout Christians, the lead-up to Easter.
At this point of course one can only speculate and it may sound a bit insensitive, but to me it seemed inevitable that something like this fire incident might happen one day. I can barely remember the building not being partially cordoned off and having construction equipment around it, so to me it seemed logical that something was bound to give one of these days. I even seem to remember that when I first visited Paris in 1991-ish they were already scrambling because one of the exterior supporting arches had collapsed and the whole aft section of the nave was also under threat of collapsing.
Either way, it’s tragic in so many ways, it’s hard to not feel touched. One can only hope they can salvage as much as they can and rebuild the place in a timely manner, even if it never will be the same again – not just for the tourists.