June 25, 2019

Winnipeg
16° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

In Notre Dame fire, embers of unity for a fractured France

PARIS - In Paris' heart, a charred and gaping hole. But also a rallying cry.

The disfigurement of Notre Dame, the splendid cathedral that has watched over the French capital for centuries and is now a blackened wreck mourned around the globe, felt to Parisians like a body blow, as impossible to stomach as the eternal loss to New York of its Twin Towers, as unfathomable as the idea of Egypt shorn of its pyramids or London robbed of Buckingham Palace.

Which is why, even before the tears had dried and firefighters had extinguished the flames, the immediate, visceral imperative was to rebuild. Here's money. Here's wood. Donations poured in, from billionaires pledging hundreds of millions of euros to the more modest offerings of those who gave what they could spare.

A nation that for months of violent yellow-vest protests has been more divided than at any time since World War II suddenly found a shared mission in the ashes of disaster: Restore, for future generations, the gift of Notre Dame that previous generations handed down to us.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Keep reading free:

I agree to the Terms and Conditions, Cookie and Privacy Policies, and CASL agreement.

 

Already have an account?

Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Smoke is seen in the interior of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

Smoke is seen in the interior of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

PARIS - In Paris' heart, a charred and gaping hole. But also a rallying cry.

The disfigurement of Notre Dame, the splendid cathedral that has watched over the French capital for centuries and is now a blackened wreck mourned around the globe, felt to Parisians like a body blow, as impossible to stomach as the eternal loss to New York of its Twin Towers, as unfathomable as the idea of Egypt shorn of its pyramids or London robbed of Buckingham Palace.

Which is why, even before the tears had dried and firefighters had extinguished the flames, the immediate, visceral imperative was to rebuild. Here's money. Here's wood. Donations poured in, from billionaires pledging hundreds of millions of euros to the more modest offerings of those who gave what they could spare.

A nation that for months of violent yellow-vest protests has been more divided than at any time since World War II suddenly found a shared mission in the ashes of disaster: Restore, for future generations, the gift of Notre Dame that previous generations handed down to us.

Experience says the new-found unity won't last. It didn't even after gunmen massacred 130 people at the Bataclan concert hall and other Paris sites in 2015 and killed 17 in the attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Then, France shared a slogan, "Je suis Charlie," in a similar way that it now shares the pain of Notre Dame.

Because the iconic cathedral's suffering took precedence, immediately overpowering the political, social and economic splits that have consumed President Emmanuel Macron's popularity and much of his time since November.

People attend a vigil in Paris, Tuesday April 16, 2019. Firefighters declared success Tuesday in a more than 12-hour battle to extinguish an inferno engulfing Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral that claimed its spire and roof, but spared its bell towers and the purported Crown of Christ. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

People attend a vigil in Paris, Tuesday April 16, 2019. Firefighters declared success Tuesday in a more than 12-hour battle to extinguish an inferno engulfing Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral that claimed its spire and roof, but spared its bell towers and the purported Crown of Christ. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

He'd been due to address the nation in a broadcast Monday night. Macron quickly abandoned that plan as the inferno feeding on ancient, tinder-dry wooden beams brought down the cathedral's spire and cross-shaped roof. Whatever Macron had intended to say, the answers he'd prepared to respond to the unrest that has monopolized France's attention, would have been lost amid the distress and prayers for Notre Dame, shared live by TV networks that abandoned their regular Monday night programming.

Instead, Macron spoke to the nation Tuesday. "What we've seen together in Paris overnight, it's our ability to unite", he said.

The front-page headline of the Liberation newspaper on Tuesday neatly captured how the fire has re-ordered the nation's priorities.

"Notre Drame" — "Our Drama" — it read over a picture of the spire consumed by fire and smoke.

At his church in the west of Paris, the Rev. Guillaume de Menthiere felt the mood shift even as the cathedral was still spewing ash and smoke over the capital, as people filed in to pray at his church and to listen to its bells' mournful tolling in solidarity for its big sister, Notre Dame.

The priest later said he was reminded of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, another tragedy when the world seemed to stop spinning and which drew French mourners back into churches that dot every town but which also seem to have lost much of their hold over France, with its fiercely guarded red line between church and the secular state.

In 2001, France wept for the United States and the attacks' victims from multiple countries. "We are all Americans," newspaper Le Monde famously said.

This time, thankfully, no one died in the fire that appears to have started somewhere in Notre Dame's roof, which had been getting a much-needed repair job. But the outpouring of emotion from across the globe was still huge: "We are all French," the world now appears to be saying.

Ordained in Notre Dame nearly three decades ago, de Menthiere was too overcome to sleep once he got home. At dawn, he rose and marshalled his thoughts into words. In the fire, he identified glowing embers of hope that France is coming together.

"During these hours of anguish, I seemed to sense that the old Gallic cockerel was awaking from its torpor," he wrote in an email to parishioners that fellow priests quickly shared.

"A mysterious communion seemed at last to be reigning over the people of France which the months gone by had so sadly shown to be in pieces and fractured," he added. "This unity that a presidential message, planned for that same night, would probably not have succeeded in rebuilding, was accomplished before our dumbfounded eyes by Notre Dame."

Parisians who went to bed fearful that the cathedral would be reduced to rubble were relieved when they awoke to learn that its two landmark bell towers are still standing, saved by hundreds of firefighters, and that not all of its treasures have been lost.

Like the proud, crowing and indomitable Gallic cockerel, long a symbol of France and featured on coins, flag poles, the presidential Elysee Palace and even the uniforms of the national soccer team, the French have been reminded that, in despair, they share deep wells of fortitude.

"That is the history of the French. We divide very often around things that we argue about but we then get together," said Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of a conservation group that was among those collecting donations and on Tuesday alone had raised some 135 million euros ($150 million) in gifts of all sizes.

"Because the French have a lot of heart."


John Leicester has reported from France for The Associated Press since 2002.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us