Posts Tagged ‘notre dame’

Death of the Immortal

In the moment, I watched, transfixed, gut-punched, as flames colored the smoky nimbus with an infernal glow. The incandescent spire bent, toppled over, and fell, a spear of fire hurled into the breaking heart of Paris. My mind burned with the revelation:

This is how immortals die.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris had always been there, a fixture of wonderment, awesome, a masterpiece of stone and lead, wood and glass. She was eternal, a legend shrouded in the mists of a different age, a goddess standing tall in the world of men. It had never occurred to me that she could be harmed, that she could die.

But the sight before me said otherwise. As timbers collapsed, as The Forest of attic timbers, each as old as memory, burned hot and bright, as the conflagration spread down transept and nave, I could only think:

She is gone.

In the aftermath, we learned that not all was lost, that the stone vaults beneath the timbered roof had only failed where the spire had pierced them. The limestone of walls, columns, buttresses, and arches, though crumbling at the edges, had stood firm. Even most of the window glass had survived the heat.

I was a reluctant Roman Catholic as a child, converted to Judaism in my youth, spent decades in agnostic dilemma, and now live a religiously unfettered life as a staunch atheist, and yet . . .

And yet, the cathedral means something to me. She is more than just an icon, a symbol of Catholicism, a relic of a darker age. She is a thing of unutterable beauty. She is the embodiment of the human capacity for aspiration and genius, discipline and devotion, a reflection of the divine within us all. Though it will be decades before she is restored, we will some day be able to once more walk the cruciform aisles beneath her soaring stone.

She is immortal still.

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we watch some sport, my wife goes to sleep in one country and awakens in another, and I take very few pictures.

la Arene de Lutece

09:  One Last Night, then A New Day, a New Country


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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we navigate a chemist shop, weigh some fruit, climb a hill, and I misplace an entire cathedral.

Montmartre Rooftops

04:  Three Churches and a Heretical Notion


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While I’m taking my own vacation, I’m going to share this series, a compilation of “letters home” from the three-week trip my wife and I took to Paris and England in April 2011.  They were written on the road, on a teensy little netbook, usually at the end of the day (or every other day, if our schedule was hectic.)  I have not edited them, except to fix the odd grammatical or spelling error.  Though I sent these emails to a small circle of friends and family, my primary reason in writing these was to document our trip in the fresh, unvarnished detail that only comes when one is exhausted, filled with the sights and sounds of the day.


01: Nous sommes arrive


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