As the flames continue at Notre Dame, I sit in my apartment just 20 minutes’ walk away, and am truly heart-sick.
The cathedral, along with the Cluny Museum, were what sparked my passion for medieval art. I lived near both when I was 23 and visited them often…first to gawk, then to absorb, then to study. I went on to get my master’s degree in medieval art history. Gothic architecture was a large part of my coursework.
I have spent so much time in the cathedral, on my own, with my kids, and with friends. Most memorably was for Easter Sunday mass, with my late mother around 25 years ago. We were both overwhelmed by the throng of people, the incense, and the grandeur of the building, and had to go sit in the garden outside.
In the last couple of years, it has consistently shown up in my Instagram feed, since I walk by it once a month, on my way to the teen book club I host at Shakespeare and Company, which is directly across the river from it.
Notre Dame is so much more than a church. It’s a symbol, and truly serves as the heart of France. One of my first thoughts was that though the Nazis didn’t succeed in blowing it up (as Hitler had planned), now, 74 years later, it is burning.
Let’s hope that when the flames subside there is enough left to rebuild. What a tragedy.