Why the Notre-Dame de Paris Matters to the Masses

Anabel Sanchez

Online Editor


With the Monday April 15, 2019 burning of Notre-Dame de Paris, also commonly known as Notre-Dame Cathedral, it seemed as if some awful omen had befallen the world.

Many religious and non-religious people alike from all over the world watched in stunned horror as the worldwide famous cathedral became consumed by flames.

The unfortunate timing wasn’t lost on anyone as the incident happened during the beginning of holy week, which is observed by millions of Catholics and Christians around the world. In fact, had the event occurred a day earlier, it would have happened during a jam-packed session of religious masses that took place, with hundreds in attendance.

Social media was inundated with reactions from users, ranging from religious observers to local French citizens who hyperbolized that the burning symbolized some sort of end of the world.

But why do people even feel this way about such an old structure made of old cement, wood, and weathered stone?


Well, to start, Notre-Dame is one of the most immaculate works of Gothic architecture in the world. A relic of the Middles Ages, the church is over 800 years old. It’s had several facelifts and makeovers over the centuries, but what made it stand out is its stunningly grotesque statues of gargoyles and chimera, as well as its iconic stained glass windows and the immense spire towering into the sky.

In the 1800s, citizens grew tired of the church, which was stylistically out of date (Baroque was in style), in serious disrepair, and just plain ugly to the eyes. They petitioned for its demolition.

However, French writer Victor Hugo was encouraged to save Notre-Dame and did so by writing the timeless classic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The popularity of the novel revived citizens’ interests in the church and efforts to save it were revived.


Needless to say, since then, Notre-Dame has become firmly ingrained in the French culture, becoming a fixture of the Parisian skyline. It is a place of dark beauty, where kings flanked its hall and people go to pray. Its near-destruction during the holiest of weeks in Christianity spiritually devastated followers.

There’s also something else to consider. With the religious and immigration issues that are a simmering undercurrent in French society, it’s also possible that many felt that the burning of something so authentically French was a terrible sign of things to come.

However, people shouldn’t feel discouraged. This isn’t the first time the grand Notre-Dame has been in peril. It was rebuilt in various ways countless times over the years and even survived the bloody French Revolution.

With the announcement that she is still salvageable (with its main structure remaining in intact), devotees can look forward to seeing Notre-Dame de Paris rise from the ashes again one day.

Luckily, she’s a damned stubborn lady.



Images courtesy of notredamecathedralparis.com, Charles Soulier, and Étienne Carjat.