The fire that led to the destruction of many parts of the Notre-Dame cathedral is not the only reason why I or any of you won’t be able to see Notre-Dame again. If history is to be believed, we haven’t ever seen Notre-Dame anyway.
The construction of this medieval Catholic cathedral with its French Gothic architecture began in 1160 and by 1260, it was mainly complete. The Cathedral whose magnificence took 100 years’ worth of hard work and creativity was desecrated during the French Revolution. And with the death of the first ever Notre-Dame and destruction of many religious imagery, died the hope of any of us truly seeing it in its original shape.
Years later, due to the efforts of Victor Hugo in making the monument immortal and etched in time, a major restoration project started in the year 1955. But neither Hunchback of Notre Dame, nor the restoration supervisor Eugene Viollet-le-Duc could reincarnate the image of the majestic sculptural marvel. The iconic Cathedral that stood before the people in 1944 was much different than what Bishop Maurice de Sully had envisioned 800 years before.
The Cathedral was often subjected to such restoration and cleaning projects, trying to return it to its glory. Not that it wasn’t beautiful already but monuments are meant to be a witness of history. And so, they must look like they did during the time they were constructed. But in 2013, when the Cathedral celebrated its 850th anniversary, the structure that millions of tourists gazed upon, wasn’t a witness of history but an attempt of the creative minds of the world trying to make it so.
Tourists from all over the world come to visit this symbol of Paris, but has any of them truly seen Notre-Dame which was desecrated 500 years after it was constructed. No, they see only a reconstructed beautiful image of it, like the mirage in a desert. And we, the unlucky who haven’t been to Paris till date, will never be able to see even that. After the Cathedral caught fire yesterday on April 15th, Notre-dame has suffered significant damage since the entire roof and the main spire collapsed. Though there are talks of once again restoring the cathedral, the original structure will remain lost.
And the newer generations who visit Paris to see the icon of the French Nation will only see another distorted image of what once was the structure of Bishop Maurice de Sully’s making and Victor Hugo’s dreams. No one will be able to see Notre-Dame again, but then perhaps, no one alive has ever seen it.
The article is written by Pallavi Sareen, editor-in-chief of Straight Line.