Photo by The Denver Chanel

Citizens of Paris and Catholics around the world lament the destruction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. A massive fire devastated the 856-year-old symbol of beauty and history at 6:30 p.m., destroying two-thirds of the wooden roof and iconic spire over the course of five hours.

Faculty Reaction

Madam Julie Richard

“Disbelief. Shock. Sadness. We were just there, walking through the sacred space, in awe of all its splendor, thankful for all of the many, many hands that worked to construct it over 800 years ago.

Mr. Howard and I were just there with 10 Jesuit students in this very space just over one month ago, pointing out the crown of thorns, the special door to the sacristy, the carving of Jesus’ life from death to resurrection. All the detail, all of the art, all of, well, everything.

Moments from past trips come rushing forward-photos that many never be able to be recreated. Vacations with my college friends, with my husband, and with my students. I am especially grateful to have taken the leaps of faith which led me to go and to explore and to understand this deep sense of beauty.

I mourn for future visitors of La Belle Capital, Paris. Even though France is dedicated to the reconstruction of this magnificent cathedral, it will take many, many years before it is complete.

So tonight I light a candle for La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris as a remembrance of all that was, all that is now, and all that is to come.“

Ian Berry ’07

“I received a text from my best friend from college yesterday: “Dude, Notre Dame’s burning.” I didn’t really understand what he meant (possibly a joke or a reference I was forgetting?) and a class was about to begin, so I put my phone away. Then, during the class period, my mom texted me; then my dad. Honestly, I think I don’t respond emotionally to disaster until after the fact, so initially, my reaction was a desire to know more of the facts. Was it some sort of terrorist action, like others in Paris’ recent history?

I lived in Paris for three years. I went to grad school just opposite the Ile de la Cité where the church is located. I often walked through the church courtyard on the way to the Boulevard Saint Michel. 

Paris is like a second home to me. Over the years, many of my friends and I have kept in contact in part through talking about sad news stories like this one. Maybe that’s a silver lining to the darkness France has dealt with recently. So I woke up this morning (Tuesday) and sent a message to a friend. It’s hard to know what to say when a centuries-old cathedral, an emblem of the city, suffers such destruction. Even saying “Il n’y a pas de mots” (There are no words) seems cliché.

The first time I ever went to Paris, in August 2009, I visited Notre Dame with a group of 30 other American college students. I remember a sunny day, stained glass, the smell of dust, old things; and the hush–not of prayer, but of tourists. Notre Dame, unlike the Sacré Coeur cathedral across town, has tourist kiosks inside. Photos are allowed to be taken–even during a mass, I believe. I’ve always been a little bothered by that. For me, Notre Dame is not just a symbol of the Church’s enduring presence in France, but also of its absence. Many, many people in France do not see in the church (or the Church) a living body that they want to be a part of. My first impression of the church was of that loss, but also of God’s silent, enduring presence, still there even if many of those walking up and down the nave and the transepts of the church saw the place as more of a cultural artifact and a repository of art than anything else. So I suppose as the news has sunk in, I’ve felt some sorrow for the French people but also for what the place meant to me. It was one of the places where I sat and for a moment felt like I “got” what France is on a spiritual level.”

Student Reaction

Trevlan MacGregor ’20

“I first heard the news during 6th period after I ate lunch. When a friend told me I thought it was a small, minor fire. It wasn’t until 8th period I went onto my iPad and saw the pictures, videos, and news articles. I was horrified. Notre Dame, the 900-year-old cathedral, was literally on fire. I couldn’t believe such a disaster would happen during holy week, and I was nearly moved to tears. I looked around online and was very relieved to know the Crown of Thorns was safe.

I vividly remember being at the cathedral during the French Exchange Trip. It was an awesome structure with such rich history and beautiful design. I remember hoping to return when I was older to see it all again, but now I’m devastated to see such a significant place to France and the World burn.

Notre Dame was among the highlights during the trip. The Crown of Thorns, the Chapels, and the architecture were all so beautiful to see. I look back on the trip as one of the best experiences ever, and it’s because of that I connect with what President Macron said: “part of us is burning.”

The most painful part of it is that future French Exchange trips won’t get to see Notre Dame in its glory and beauty. The raw detail and magnitude of it all were jaw-dropping, and I wish future generations could have experienced the magnitude of Notre Dame before this tragedy.”

Luis Boy ’21

“My immediate reaction to the news was sadness because I was realizing that the world I losing such an important and beautiful piece of history, a grand feat of architecture, and an ethereal testament of the beauty of God.

I was actually in Paris, France not a month before today. I am astounded that I was one of the last people to view this monumental church.

Having seen the church and experienced first hand the beauty that exists inside made the news of the fire much more saddening and probably made my reaction much more emotional than it would have been had I not had that opportunity.”

Gabe Norris ’20

“My immediate reaction was like ‘Oh no is this really happening?!’ because we were just there about a month ago during the exchange trip and now we’ll not be able to see it as it was when we went.

I’m Catholic so it saddened me a lot because of a loss of this huge and beautiful place of worship and now it has been partially destroyed.

Visiting the Cathedral so recently made the news hit a lot harder and made it more surreal. The Cathedral was a major symbol in the Church and in France that I had a connection to. I’ll also cherish the pictures I took even more now.”

Photo credit:  The Denver Channel