18 September 2020

Pauvre Notre-Dame de Paris

The metal roof of the cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris burned off — melted, actually — in April 2019 when the wooden structure that supported it caught fire. The tall steeple fell into the church. I posted some photos I took in October 2019 here. I was on my way home to North Carolina and I had a few hours to spend in Paris. I was meeting friends from California for dinner in a little restaurant near the river before flying out the next day.

But that was 2019. These photo are some that I took in 2007 when I went to the cathedral with my sister and a good friend of ours. This was the last time I went inside Notre-Dame.

Compare this photo I found on the internet this morning. It's one of many photos published by the New York Times in 2019. Credit where credit is due — photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In 2007, you could still get close to the cathedral and go inside. Now it's closed to the public and reconstruction and restoration work is ongoing. It's all fenced off. I haven't been to Paris to see it in about two years now. Above, that's saint Denis de Paris holding his head in his hands. According to legend, he walked several miles north carrying his own head and preaching the gospel after he was beheaded in the 3rd century.

I'm so glad our friend from North Carolina really wanted to walk through the cathedral that afternoon in September 20076, even after we had spent eight hours walking through Paris starting at 7:00 a.m. The line to get in was long. There were hundreds of people inside the church. My sister took a pass and said she would just sit outside and rest while we walked around inside.

I don't know who this statue represents. The woman actually looks a little like Judy Collins, if you remember her. By the way, the beautiful south-facing rose window in the photo above survived the fire at Notre-Dame, I understand. I published a series of posts about the cathedral in April 2019, in the aftermath of the fire. Start here and click Newer Post at the bottom of each blog post to see them and a lot of photos.

Even since the fire, when you look at the west-facing façade of the cathedral — the two tall bell towers — you can't really tell how much damage the main part of the building behind them suffered in 2019. By the way, my first trip to Paris was in 1970, and I lived in the city for several years way back when — 1974-76, 1979-82, etc.  I certainly never expected to see Notre-Dame suffer such horrible damage in my lifetime.


  1. Oui, pauvre Notre-Dame!

    As for the statue, I thought it could be St. Geneviève, Paris' patron saint, because of the towers above her, but why should she have a snake around her head?

    1. J'ai trouvé ceci sur internet : Statue portail ouest de la cathédrale Notre-Dame : serpent-bandé les yeux sans espoir, personnification de la synagogue, Paris, France

    2. Lien très intéressant. J'avais déjà vu la mention de la Synagogue sans savoir de quoi il s'agissait. Merci.

    3. Here's some interesting history about la Synagogue. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/horror-and-hope-at-the-portals-of-notre-dame/

    4. Yes, thank you, E. That's an interesting article.

  2. We can only keep hoping that the restoration can really save Notre Dame.

  3. President Macron seems intent on having Norte Dame restored in time for the Paris Olympics but I really wonder if that’s possible. Not likely.

  4. I look forward to seeing her restored. Apparently Vassar College had been doing digital scans of Notre Dame for years, as part of their art history department. This should be helpful, especially with la flèche.


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