Ashes To Ashes


Robert Louis Stevenson once said that mankind is never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.

And so it was that in 1163, more than a hundred and fifty years before the world would come into full bloom with the dawn of the Renaissance, hope was risen with the first bricks of a timeless symbol that would come to define a city, a nation and the world it would grow up inside of.

The name possessed a gravitas and evoked reverence the world over. It was a symbol which transcended religion. The underpinnings of this wondrous creation of man was a muse to pilgrims and painters and poets and the dreams they had in common.

Deep within the womb of this timeless place, history was birthed countless times. Henry VI was made King of France here, and later, Napoleon was named Emperor inside its confines. And in the early 20th century, Joan of Arc was beatified inside the cathedral by Pope Pius X.

Our Lady of Paris survived the French Revolution as well as two World Wars. And when its health was failing in the nineteenth century, Victor Hugo’s book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” helped usher in a revitalization effort. The medieval spire, which had been removed a century earlier, was rebuilt.

The significance of that spire is testimony to the efforts of a group of people who ventured back inside as the fire was laying waste to the roof of the cathedral. A group of public servants and firemen formed a human chain and retrieved several priceless artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns- believed to have been worn by Jesus on the cross- and the Blessed Sacrament. The roof, constructed from 5,000 oak trees by more than a thousand men, could not be saved.

It was sometime around 8 p.m. when the spire was taken from the world in a heap of ash. A symbol of hope and faith, stolen away by the flames forever. And as the sun set on the city, our Lady of Paris said goodbye to the world.

And Jesus wept.

59 thoughts on “Ashes To Ashes

  1. Dear B,

    This is a beautiful tribute to the Grand Lady of Paris. She is badly wounded but not dead. Of course, no matter how much money is poured into her restoration, she will never be what she once was. She will hopefully be reborn into something that will show what she is made of.

    Again, beautifully done.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Q,

      I’m not gonna lie, I cried as I watched the news coverage yesterday. The time of year, with this being Holy Week adds further injury to the devastation. Not being a ‘believer’ in the traditional sense, there is nonetheless, a resonance that cathedrals such as this imbue. I feel it.

      I do believe she will have a glorious next life, and perhaps this can be a symbol of rebirth that carries forward another thousand years.

      Thank you for the kind words.


      Liked by 2 people

      • You and me both – as well as millions around the world. Stepping inside these places, one cannot help but feel a hush. In Montreal, we have the “baby” Notre Dame and I feel it there. Can only imagine it is magnified over there.

        I think she will.

        I always speak the truth.

        Liked by 1 person

          • If anything, this cathedral helped an entire world to see light through darkness. Over centuries, it held court.
            Symbols matter, whether we agree with such a thing or not. And the symbol of this magnificent structure was testament to so many of the greatest qualities of man.

            And I, like you, believe it will be again.

            Liked by 2 people

          • In stories such as this one, there is always something to be culled from the ashes, so to speak. The heroic efforts of those people who formed a human chain in order to save those artifacts just shakes me.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Absolutely! The firemen, who controlled the flames in such a way as to preserve as much as possible, and yes, definitely that human chain. Does that not show how much such places like these: symbolic places, reverent places, are important?

            Liked by 1 person

          • It’s inspiration, within the throes of hopelessness. I think the value of this monument can be defined in what those people did. What it meant to them, to do it. No structure is mightier than that kind of resolve.

            Liked by 1 person

          • It always brings me back to that time when we were sitting in a pub, October of 2001. We had witnessed a city in mourning, forever changed. And someone at the table asked where God was when this horrible thing was happening.

            To which I said (Me!), God was there too. In the people who climbed the stairs to save others. To all those first responders who put the safety and well being of others before their own.

            There is hope in the hopelessness of things. I think faith is when you look for it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I can’t even imagine having been a witness as closely as you were. And that question always makes me want to smack peeps. Because it also sounds too much like “Why me?”

            Because that is life. The good, the bad and the ugly. And when the ugly comes, so does the beauty – those who come in and make a difference.

            Yes, faith is when and where you look for it.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Marco,

    I can’t really add to what you and Dale have already said. Gorgeous tribute to a tragedy that still has the world trembling in horror. I shed not a few tears here. Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Rochelle,

      It knocked me off my feet, as it did so many people. But to understand its value on the other side of this devastation, not in words but in the deeds of people, that sustains. I think the common good in all of us shines through in events such as this one.

      Thank you for the beautiful comment.

      Peace and love to you.




  3. Amazing tribute, Marc. I felt a personal loss since I was fortunate to visit the cathedral. Photos never did the grand lady justice. The spirit of humankind will blossom and I have no doubts she will be restored.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done, good sir.

    I took a little work break around 11:00 yesterday and went to the gym and run on the treadmill for a few minutes. that’s where I watched the news and learned of the fire and watched the spire fall. I won’t say I felt as strongly about it as you did, but the loss of history and culture and a monument to 800 years of human history is a tough one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry I’m so behind on your essays…and this one was more than a little touching. I too wept. It throws me more than I can say, and was going to write about it as well, but now may not since you’ve said it all.
    How could this be. Notre Dame, that makes St. Pat’s in New York look like a theme park in comparison, in it’s sacredness. Have you ever been? Oh my.
    It’s where the angels live.
    This was indeed one of your very best, despite its sad, tender theme.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I wipe away my tears I come away with some hope. The altar is gone but the cross stands strong and shining. The pews sit empty now but they will fill again. We lost a lot today, but I believe the hope and faith remain.

    As always your words have moved me to tears. You have a true talent, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your words for such a troubled time were so honest and touching … It was very hard to see the pictures and watch the news. I’ve never been to France, like other dreamy things, it’s on the list. It is truly sad to know that I have missed being present and take in such a beautiful and historic site, but I imagine it was heartbreaking for those that had seen it and those that lived there. I think what makes it an even bigger impact is that it’s Holy Week and Easter is just a few days away. Great words for such a sad time. Sending you peace, love and waves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cali,

      I think when you do make it to Paris, just being in the company of where the church still stands will move you. If it’s on your list, then I think it’s more a matter of being there. You won’t have missed the most important part because the aura will remain.

      The timing on this, I know. Which is why it was heartening to know they retrieved several artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns.

      Thank you for the beautiful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ann,

      The rebuilt Notre Dame Cathedral will live on for future generations to be able to call their own. I thought about this one day whilst driving. For a good long while, in fact. I tend to get lost in thought when I’m driving for more than ten minutes.
      I liked the idea of Notre Dame Cathedral having a life for several different periods of time, which it does. That’s how I figured this one out.
      But yeah, it still pains me to see it go that way.

      Liked by 1 person

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