Monday’s been an upsetting one, with the world joining in sorrow over the sudden burning of Paris’ 850-year-old Notre Dame cathedral. The fire, whose cause is currently unknown, has been extensive though not complete. The iconic spire and its roof have collapsed, and much of the interior has perished. Still, the twin bell towers are reportedly safe, as is the main structure and, thanks to rescuers, almost all of the interior artwork.
That’s far from everything, though, and the Gothic wonder that has survived hundreds of years of turmoil — including the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror and the city’s partial destruction during World War II — is, despairingly, partially gone.
The world grieves for what once was, among them those currently in Paris. Along with the many horrifying videos making social media rounds, showing heartbreaking obliteration, are some that are more bittersweet: Ones showing the city’s denizens hunkered outside together, overlooking the burning cathedral, singing “Ave Maria” in unison.
Such moments offer peace in the face of history going up in flames, no less gutting for occurring in the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter, with Palm Sunday one day behind. The cathedral has undergone extensive renovations during its 850-year-plus reign. Indeed, when the fire broke out, the spire was in the process of being restored.
BuzzFeed has reported that French billionaire François-Henri Pinault has already pledged 100 million euros to help reconstruct the cathedral. Pinault is the chairman and CEO of Kering, a luxury group that owns brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, and president of the French holding company Groupe Artemis, which owns Christie’s auction house.
Joining Pinault in the quest to resurrect Notre Dame is French president Emmanuel Macron, who announced Monday he would launch a national fundraising campaign.
“We will rebuild,” Macron informed reporters. “We will rebuild Notre Dame because this is what the French expect, because this is what our history deserves, because it is our destiny.”