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The Guardian view on the Notre Dame fire: we share France’s terrible loss The Guardian view on the Notre Dame fire: we share France’s terrible loss
(about 8 hours later)
It feels as though the very heart of France and the soul of Europe have been suddenly and viciously ripped out. The fire that coursed through large sections of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday evening was an act of blind and terrible destruction that causes a great stab of emotional pain to us all.It feels as though the very heart of France and the soul of Europe have been suddenly and viciously ripped out. The fire that coursed through large sections of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday evening was an act of blind and terrible destruction that causes a great stab of emotional pain to us all.
In a frighteningly short time, it gutted and humbled one of the great buildings of Paris, in an act of annihilation of one of the emblematic places of Europe that had survived the brutality of the French revolution and the world wars of the 20th century.In a frighteningly short time, it gutted and humbled one of the great buildings of Paris, in an act of annihilation of one of the emblematic places of Europe that had survived the brutality of the French revolution and the world wars of the 20th century.
The fire struck quickly and seemingly uncontrollably. It gathered force with immense power and ferocity, engulfing much of the roof and the central spire as it caught hold. The difficulty of marshalling full and effective firefighting operations to protect the building, which is on a small and historic island in the middle of the Seine, was quickly evident and agonising.The fire struck quickly and seemingly uncontrollably. It gathered force with immense power and ferocity, engulfing much of the roof and the central spire as it caught hold. The difficulty of marshalling full and effective firefighting operations to protect the building, which is on a small and historic island in the middle of the Seine, was quickly evident and agonising.
After an hour or so, the Paris fire brigade was able to begin to get part of the fire under some degree of control and to protect the parts of the cathedral that may survive. But, by then, the worst had already taken place. It is not yet clear what will remain of the great building in the cold light of morning although, as night fell, the great west towers still stood against the sky, proud but vulnerable.After an hour or so, the Paris fire brigade was able to begin to get part of the fire under some degree of control and to protect the parts of the cathedral that may survive. But, by then, the worst had already taken place. It is not yet clear what will remain of the great building in the cold light of morning although, as night fell, the great west towers still stood against the sky, proud but vulnerable.
The pain for the city and its nation will be immense, resonant and almost incomprehensible. Notre Dame is the embodiment of the French capital and of France itself. It has been in its place since the 12th century. It was the site of the marriages of the greatest of all French kings, Henry IV, and of the Emperor Napoleon. It was here that the liberation of Paris in 1944 was marked in a service of thanksgiving.The pain for the city and its nation will be immense, resonant and almost incomprehensible. Notre Dame is the embodiment of the French capital and of France itself. It has been in its place since the 12th century. It was the site of the marriages of the greatest of all French kings, Henry IV, and of the Emperor Napoleon. It was here that the liberation of Paris in 1944 was marked in a service of thanksgiving.
It is world famous not simply as an iconic Parisian building but through the writing of Victor Hugo, who in his novel Hunchback of Notre Dame – in French the title is simply Notre-Dame de Paris, like the cathedral – made the building itself come alive.It is world famous not simply as an iconic Parisian building but through the writing of Victor Hugo, who in his novel Hunchback of Notre Dame – in French the title is simply Notre-Dame de Paris, like the cathedral – made the building itself come alive.
Notre Dame fire: Paris cathedral devastated by ferocious blazeNotre Dame fire: Paris cathedral devastated by ferocious blaze
Yet the cathedral belongs to us all, too. Notre Dame is intimately connected with the history of England, Scotland and Britain. Henry VI was crowned king of France here. Francois I married Mary Stuart, later Mary, Queen of Scots, in it. Charles I, England’s most reprehensible king, was married in this building, too.Yet the cathedral belongs to us all, too. Notre Dame is intimately connected with the history of England, Scotland and Britain. Henry VI was crowned king of France here. Francois I married Mary Stuart, later Mary, Queen of Scots, in it. Charles I, England’s most reprehensible king, was married in this building, too.
But the cathedral is not simply in our history, but in our hearts. It is part of our shared artistic patrimony. It belongs to European civilisation, of which this supremely important medieval building has long been such a peerless artistic embodiment, in the greatness of its carvings, its paintings, its music and its collections.But the cathedral is not simply in our history, but in our hearts. It is part of our shared artistic patrimony. It belongs to European civilisation, of which this supremely important medieval building has long been such a peerless artistic embodiment, in the greatness of its carvings, its paintings, its music and its collections.
The cruelty of this event to this greatest of European cities is almost beyond rational response. France in 2019 is a badly divided nation. Paris has been the theatre of some of the most vicious acts of terrorist violence of modern times. It is much too early to say what might have caused the conflagration on the Île de la Cité. It would be imprudent to speculate before the facts are known.The cruelty of this event to this greatest of European cities is almost beyond rational response. France in 2019 is a badly divided nation. Paris has been the theatre of some of the most vicious acts of terrorist violence of modern times. It is much too early to say what might have caused the conflagration on the Île de la Cité. It would be imprudent to speculate before the facts are known.
But those of us in Britain know, from the impact of what happened in the very different circumstances of the fire in Grenfell Tower in London two years ago, that such events can come to be seen as something more significant even than a terrible and tragic night of destruction and loss.But those of us in Britain know, from the impact of what happened in the very different circumstances of the fire in Grenfell Tower in London two years ago, that such events can come to be seen as something more significant even than a terrible and tragic night of destruction and loss.
Notre Dame will rise again. Paris will survive this as it has survived so much else. France will come together, too. But there is no dismissing the traumatic impact of what has happened to French life in Paris in Easter week 2019. A blow has been unleashed to the confidence of a city, a nation, a culture and a continent.Notre Dame will rise again. Paris will survive this as it has survived so much else. France will come together, too. But there is no dismissing the traumatic impact of what has happened to French life in Paris in Easter week 2019. A blow has been unleashed to the confidence of a city, a nation, a culture and a continent.
The cathedral will rise again in time. This terrible fire is not an event that should be trivialised or banalised. Yet, at a moment like this, how foolish it seems to pretend that we are not all Europeans. We stand with France in its hour of heartbreak. We will never, ever, turn away.The cathedral will rise again in time. This terrible fire is not an event that should be trivialised or banalised. Yet, at a moment like this, how foolish it seems to pretend that we are not all Europeans. We stand with France in its hour of heartbreak. We will never, ever, turn away.
ParisParis
Opinion
FranceFrance
EuropeEurope
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