Repairs on Notre Dame Cathedral may take over a decade and cost more than $1 billion. On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out in the cathedral, which was undergoing repairs, and only the heroic efforts of firefighters saved the whole structure from collapse.

Begun in 1160, it was largely complete by 1260, although modified frequently in the following centuries. The spire, whose fall roused a groan from watching Parisians, was added in the 19th century.

Built in the oldest part of Paris, on the Ile de la Cité, the cathedral commanded attention from many viewpoints. From the front, its towers stood like guardians. From the side, the flying buttresses held up the walls, creating an interior of great height and light. Rose windows brought in the color of faith.

My favorite site for viewing the cathedral was from the Left Bank park near the famous English bookstore Shakespeare and Company.

My first reaction to the news of the burning was horror and anger as I assumed the fire was an attack by terrorists. I feared an escalation in the destruction that religious fanaticism gives birth to. With the news that the blaze was probably caused by an electrical malfunction in the construction area, I calmed down. Sorrow filled my heart, but the rage was gone.

I last visited the site when I visited the archaeological museum in front of the Cathedral. Excavations going back to the 14th century (which I was interested in) showed how people lived at the time.

Vows to rebuild and pledges of money from all over the world have flooded in. Until the building is stabilized, reconstruction cannot begin.

When will we see Notre Dame again, backlit by the setting sun? From the Seine banks, she anchors the visitor in the place of Paris. Her stones testify to the fact of faith, even as the attendance of the religious tapers off.

Vive la Notre Dame

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