Notre Dame: a monument of religion, history, architecture, art, literature

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Yesterday's loss of sections of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris by fire is a powerful reminder of the importance of human-made monuments to religion, architecture, art, literature, history, and more. People worldwide reflected on what this iconic Gothic cathedral means, including some of our own scholars in Arts.

"It is an incredible loss for Paris and French culture, and we already see leaders from Europe and North America sending messages to the President of the French Republic," said Professor Guy Poirier, chair of French Studies.

side view of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, FranceNotre Dame before the fire. Photo: Creative Commons.

"Notre-Dame has, of course, been a religious monument, for Catholics, for more than 850 years, but has also been a symbol for writers, from Rabelais (his hero, Gargantua, stole the bells of Notre-Dame) to Victor Hugo and his famous Notre-Dame-de Paris novel (translated into English as: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). It has also been an inspiration for artists and musicians. Our own Canadian Luc Plamondon even wrote, in 1998, the lyrics of a musical titled Notre-Dame de Paris that has been presented in France, in Canada, and in many other countries. In the very heart of Paris, on a small island surrounded by the Seine River, Notre-Dame de Paris has also been the witness of the religious, intellectual, and political life of the capital of France." 

"We still have to know what was destroyed in the fire, since it is located on the roof of the cathedral, but some historians believe the rose window and the organ might be damaged. But Notre-Dame will for sure survive and be restored, since it is so central to the French people, and the ‘francophiles’ all around the world," concluded Poirier.

Professor Joan Coutu of the Department of Fine Arts commented: “The catastrophic fire at Notre Dame reminds us all of the powerful place architecture has in everyone’s psyche. For France, Notre Dame is an icon of its heritage but resilience is also part of their heritage. The fire may have been devastating but as in the past when several Gothic cathedrals were rebuilt after World War I, Macron and others have already pledged to rebuild Notre Dame.”

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