Millennium of symbolism burns with Notre Dame | Doonited.India

April 25, 2019

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Millennium of symbolism burns with Notre Dame

Millennium of symbolism burns with Notre Dame
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The 850-year-old Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which took over 300 years to complete, was such a constant in so many lives, including my own. Now the unthinkable has happened: A fire has reduced the icon to ashes and blackened walls. And with that go many of its treasures, historical firsts and deep associations.

Notre Dame featured in so many ways in my life as a teenager in Paris. It was a destination many, many times when I accompanied visiting friends and family. I would also ride my moped by it on my way to see my best friend from school, who lived on the neighboring Ile Saint-Louis.Given what it has seen in France’s rich and varied history, it played a central role in many of my French literature and history classes.

As I grew up, Notre Dame continued to feature vividly in my life. It was a must see on every visit to Paris. It is a touchstone I have shared with my daughter throughout her life, to this day.

Multiply my experiences and feelings by an enormous, untold number, and you’ll still fall far short of what Notre Dame means for current generations in France and around the world, let alone all the prior ones during its 1,000-year-plus existence. Its partial destruction on Monday already feels like one of those events about which you will always remember where you were when you first heard the tragic news, and when you first saw the terrible photos and video.

The widespread immediate feeling of shock and sadness is likely to soon give way to a very public and ugly blame game. How could such a jewel be exposed to such risk? Where was the damage containment plan? Why weren’t immediate attempts to quash the fires with water from below accompanied quickly by water drops from above by aircraft? And so many more questions as the unthinkable sinks in.

It won’t stop there.

The heartbreaking news comes at a time when France has been rocked by the Yellow Vest movement as part of a much broader global backlash against an establishment that is viewed as less trustworthy, less sensitive and less effective – and this just as French President Emmanuel Macron was set to announce the outcome of ‘le Grand Debat’ with citizens throughout the country.

Notre Dame stood for so much before Monday’s fire damaged it. It captured the many ups and downs of the French monarchy and, ultimately, its fall. It was a witness to the not-always-easy evolution of the French Republic. It stood over dark events and many celebrations, including during World War II and its aftermath. And yet, in addition to all the rich personal and national history it will continue to embody for so many, Notre Dame Cathedral may now also become an unpleasant symbol of current events – of popular frustration, the politics of anger and a gaping lack of trust in the establishment.

Thousands of Parisians poured into the streets to watch as the fire spread, overwhelmed by the catastrophic damage to a global heritage site visited by nearly 14 million tourists and Catholic faithful each year.

The sense of loss was etched on onlookers’ faces, many wiping away tears as they contemplated the prospect that the Notre-Dame they knew might now only been seen in history books.

“It’s our history, our literature, our imagination, the place where we experienced all our greatest moments,” an emotional French President Emmanuel Macron said after a visit to the scene, vowing: “We will rebuild Notre-Dame together.”

The iconic cathedral has been deeply enmeshed in Paris’s history since construction began at the end of the 12th century — historians generally ascribe the date 1163 — and lasted more than two centuries to 1345.

It was in Notre-Dame that Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France.

Its massive tenor bell announced the liberation of the city from Nazi control on August 24, 1944, ending the dark years under German rule in World War II.

Twenty-six years later it hosted the funeral of Charles de Gaulle, a rare honour for the leader who steered France’s resistance during the war.

For French Catholics, it has particular resonance, as the resting place of the crown of thorns believed to have been placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion.

In 1831, Hugo brought the cathedral alive with “Notre-Dame de Paris”, giving it a personality on par with the novel’s heroes, the hunchback Quasimodo and the gypsy beauty Esmeralda.

At a time when the church was facing the prospect of demolition because of its shocking state of disrepair, his novel worked as a rallying cry to action for the nation, which began efforts to safeguard the structure.

But Notre-Dame has not remained unchanged since its creation, with each era seeming to bring its own touch to the structure.

A spire originally installed toward the year 1250 was taken down five centuries later.

But at the end of the 19th century the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, a tireless defender of France’s medieval monuments, rebuilt the spire, sparking a chorus of criticism from residents and tourists alike.

The spire had disappeared from most people’s memories when it emerged once again from Notre-Dame’s roof in 1860.

It was this spire which collapsed to gasps of disbelief from horrified onlookers shortly before 8:00 pm on Monday, consumed by the flames ravaging the roof and the wooden latice supporting it, known as the “forest”.

Experts said the framework of oak beams, invisible to visitors, was a gem of medieval architecture, with some parts of the structure more than 800 years old.

In modern times the church became a lodestone of Western culture thanks in large part to its starring role in several movies, not least the “Hunchback of Notre-Dame” of 1956.

 

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Post source : AGENCIES

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