On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out at Notre-Dame de Paris. The fire destroyed the cathedral’s spire and large sections of its roof. The world watched — and many wept — as the devastating fire ate away at the 850-year-old building. My heart sank as I watched the video of the collapsing spire.
I’ve wanted to go to Paris since my senior year in college. I was a senior in college when, on a bit of a whim, I took French 101. Although I wanted to, I’d never attempted to learn a foreign language before.
As it turns out, I loved the class and the language. The professor, who had been to France many times, was an excellent educator. She was vivacious and an entertaining instructor.
I liked her, even though on one of the exams I couldn’t remember the French word for “yellow” (jeune). So I wrote my answer as: “C’est la couleur de la moutarde” (it is the color of mustard).
I received no credit for that. (I figured it was worth a try.)
In the end, I earned an “A” in the class. I truly regret not taking the class as a freshman so I could have learned more of the French language.
Anyway, the professor’s descriptions of France, and Paris in particular, made me want to go. She painted a vivid and exciting picture of the people, the food, the culture, and the architecture.
Visiting the Notre-Dame de Paris has been a requisite for travelers for hundreds of years. According to Paris Digest, 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris. Historians, architects, artists, pilgrims and tourists are all drawn to this Gothic grand dame.
The fire was contained thanks in part to its Gothic architecture, which utilized “vaults” to segment and compartmentalize the structure.
Most of the stained glass remains undamaged, including the famed rose medallion windows. Some of those windows date to the 13th century.
The day after the fire, assessments of the damage already began. It will be some time before that task is completed. Some estimate as many as 15 years. But media outlets are already reporting the cathedral will be rebuilt. French President Emmanuel Macron announced after the fire that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt, stating, “It’s part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years. And I am committed to it.”
Construction of Notre-Dame de Paris started in 1163. It was completed in the year 1345, although it has gone through many renovations, restorations, and additions. One of those additions is the placement of the figures of the 12 apostles (a group of three at each point of the compass) that were added around the spire in the nineteenth century. (Fortunately they were removed for restoration before the fire broke out.)
With its diverse architectural elements and stunning stained glass windows, it seems no two views of the cathedral are the same. No handful of views can represent the whole.
Adding to the building’s visual interest is the fact that the building is covered with sculpture vividly illustrating biblical stories. Most of the parishioners were illiterate, so the Gothic church is said to be a “poor person’s book.”
One can build a significant postcard collection focusing on the cathedral. Imagine individual postcard views of gargoyles, flying buttresses, the spire and the bell towers. Each single view adds to an understanding of the whole.
To be honest, it makes me feel small.
Look at the view of the cathedral in its surrounding area. You get a better idea of just how impressive the structure is. One of the nice things about vintage postcard views: You can choose card views that don’t show the scaffolding.
Only time will tell if enterprising photographers and publishers will create postcard views of the church during the rebuilding process.
Who knows; maybe a new collectible postcard series will arise out of the ashes documenting the restoration of this centuries-old symbol of Paris.
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