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Our Lady of Paris

On Monday morning, while I was sitting in a waiting room as the oil in my car was getting changed, I received this text from my daughter, Marissa.

I quickly searched Notre Dame on Google and immediately saw images of the fire. As were millions of others around the world, I was devastated.

I got up and turned on the TV to NBC. Tears did stream from my eyes while I listened to Lester Holt describe the scene playing out in from of me.

Before digital photography, we used to get our photos processed and kept them in photo albums. Seems like a novel idea now. The photos in this album are from 1997

Once the car was done, I came home and watched for hours more. When the announcement was made that the next 90 minutes would be crucial as to whether the two front towers would continue to stand, I could take no more. I went to Target to get a vaccination for shingles that my doctor had ordered. Then to Home Goods to wander aimlessly, finding nothing that brought me even an ounce of joy, leaving empty-handed. That tells you how devastated and depressed I was feeling.

This photo was taken on our first trip to France, in 1997 to celebrate David’s 40th birthday. This is the lead and wooden spire that fell in the fire. The copper statues were removed before the renovation began. It is believed the fire started in the attic under this spire.

The 90 minutes was almost up, so I headed home and was beyond relieved to hear that the towers were expected to stand. I watched a bit longer and once again could not bare watching that inferno blasting out of Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. (Notre Dame de Paris translates to Our Lady of Paris.)

This photo of the front two towers was taken in 2000 when I was in Paris on my way to work with Barb Fenzl at La Combe en Périgord, a cooking school in the southwest of France.
Another trip in 2005 to La Combe with Barb. I visit Notre Dame every time I go to Paris. It is the first place I go, always!

It is the Mother Church of France and it truly felt like our mother was being injured and possibly dying. I turned it off and instead, started searching my computer and albums for happy photos of all the times I’ve been to the Cathedral over the years.

In May 2007, I took Marissa on a mother/daughter trip to Paris and London. It was the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at UA. Our first stop, Notre Dame, of course. This is Marissa’s first encounter with a gargoyle. I absolutely adore this photo!

If you’ve been there even once, you know those feelings. The feelings and knowledge that the beloved church that has stood for over 850 years and holds such majesty and humility is being so violently threatened. Of course, Notre Dame holds great meaning to Catholics like me, and to all Christians around the world, but it also houses art, poetry, literature, and priceless antiquities of mankind. It is a true icon of civilization. An icon of what is best in our humanity.

Now it feels ironic that on that day Marissa and I visited the Cathedral, there was a fire under one of the bridges between Ile de la Cité (the island Notre Dame is built on) and the other side. May 2007

Notre Dame has survived the Crusades, the French Revolution, two world wars and so much more. It is the most visited structure in the most visited city in the entire world. Thirteen million visitors a year, approximately 30 thousand a day! It is a gothic masterpiece.

Statue of Joan de Arc
Photo Credit: Marissa Hopkins 2008

In 1909 Joan de Arc was beatified in Cathedral Notre Dame by Pope Pius X. You feel all of that whether you are in its shadow or inside its sacred walls.

I’m certain that at least some of these brave firefighters (pompiers) were amongst the nearly 500 that fought the fire on Monday, April 15, 2019.
Photo: May 2007

There is so much to be in awe of. From the flying buttresses, the gorgeous rose windows and the wonderful gargoyles. My family loves the gargoyles!

May 2007
Marissa returned to Paris in January 2008 for a semester abroad. She told me that she often went to the Cathedral when she felt homesick or just needed quiet time alone.
Photo Credit: Marissa Hopkins 2008

(I’m taking a break here to let you know that all of the above was written on Monday afternoon and evening. Knowing I would not post this until Wednesday, I tried to write in the past tense.  Everything below was written on Tuesday afternoon, after seeing and learning what had survived the fire.)

At the end of Marissa’s time abroad, we went to pick her up and enjoy a two-week family vacation in France and Italy. We arrived the day after Connor’s 17th birthday and immediately went to Notre Dame. It was Connor’s first trip to Europe.
May 2008

Waking up on Tuesday morning, I am filled with a sense of relief and the knowledge that prayers were answered. The worst did not happen. Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris did not burn to the ground. It will be rebuilt. Just as with this, Holy Week, there is dying and rising.

May 2008

I must confess some sad truths. The first is that when I read Marissa’s text on Monday morning, my immediate thought was. “Notre Dame University, dear Lord, not another school shooting!” The second is that when I spoke to Marissa later that evening, she told me that when she saw the first images on social media of smoke (no flames yet) at Cathedral Notre Dame, she thought, “Oh please, not another terrorist attack in Paris, not at Notre Dame!”  The horrible and sad truth is that this is where our minds immediately go these days. We no longer can have the most innocent of thoughts, such as, “Oh no, a fire!”

Rose Window
March 2014

My last visit to Notre Dame was in March 2014. It was a weekend trip with Peggy, her sister-in-law, Lorraine, and Peggy’s daughter, Natalie, who was studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. We weren’t able to climb up. I can’t remember why. Maybe we were there too late in the day. (I just read the “Paris” post which I link at the bottom and found that we were not able to climb up because of an air quality alert that day) Still magical every time!

How ironic is it to see the fire extinguisher in this photo now?
October 1997

At the bottom of the post, you’ll find links to other times I’ve posted about Notre Dame over the last 10 years here on the blog. I’ll end the written part of this post with an early wish for a Happy Passover and Happy Easter to you all. If you’d like, please continue to view happy memories from my visits to Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. xoxo

This is David in front of the tiny door you need to go through to get in to see the bell.
October 1997

Here are Marissa and Connor in front of the same tiny door nearly 11 years later.
May 2008
Looking down at the square below.
May 2008
Marissa and a study-abroad friend in the same square.
February 2008

Holy Mother and Child
Photo credit: Marissa Hopkins, February 2008
October 1997
I wonder if this survived the fire.
October 1997
The main altar.
October 1997
The main altar.
February 2008
Photo credit: Marissa Hopkins
The main altar. Tuesday, April 16, 2019. By the grace of God, it survived, along with so much more of the church, including some of the pews. Amazing!
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

I look forward to my next visit. Now I’m off to donate to the rebuilding fund.
May 2007

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1 Shelley { 04.17.19 at 6:04 AM }

It’s so sad! We visited Paris during our first trip to Europe and it was an organized tour, one of those that had way too many to see during a limited time. Unfortunately the tour did not allow time to go inside. Since then we visited Europe multiple times, more in depth in other regions but not Paris again. I wish we had.

2 Lisa { 04.17.19 at 6:43 AM }

Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories and photos

3 Ronnie Jaap { 04.17.19 at 9:06 AM }

Beautiful, heartfelt blog. Thank you for sharing your photos and memories

4 Betsy Storey { 04.17.19 at 10:12 AM }

what a sad day for sure but so glad so much was able to be saved !
Loved all your pictures-how lucky you are to have seen Notre Dame so many times –

5 Lina K. Austin { 04.17.19 at 11:22 AM }

So glad that you got see see Notre Dame so well. We went through it when we were married in 2013. Great article. Still breaks my heart.

6 Betsy Storey { 04.17.19 at 11:41 AM }

I left a comment but not showing up –was it received

7 Linda Hopkins { 04.17.19 at 11:49 AM }

Yes, it is, Betsey. Thank you! I do feel lucky. xoxo

8 Debbie Elder { 04.23.19 at 7:16 AM }

Enjoyed hearing about your trips to Notre Dame. Thanks for sharing your photographs and happy memories.

9 Anne { 04.30.19 at 8:32 AM }

A sad day… thank you for sharing your memories and pictures. xo

10 Shirley { 05.02.19 at 5:52 AM }

Thank you for sharing your memories. The photo on the news with the cross still standing was so powerful!

11 Marilyn Harter { 05.02.19 at 4:49 PM }

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Notre Dame. It is one of those events we will always remember where we were when we heard the news. So fitting that is was saved during such a holy time of resurrection! I always feel myself holding my breath when I’ve walked through. It truly is a holy place.

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