Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Notre-Dame's legacy will outlive the flames

The fire reminds us how important it is to preserve the world’s shared heritage

Inspectors are seen on the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the day after a fire ripped through its main roof. AFP
Inspectors are seen on the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the day after a fire ripped through its main roof. AFP

Last night, people all over France turned on their televisions expecting to watch President Emmanuel Macron outline his solutions to the yellow vest protests that have caused chaos in the capital and beyond since November. Instead, they were faced with an altogether different national crisis: the world-famous Notre-Dame cathedral engulfed in flames. The heartbreaking footage of the blazing Paris landmark rolled on for hours. Reports state that the 12th-century building’s attic caught fire at 6.50pm, gutting ancient woodwork and causing its instantly recognisable spire to collapse. Parisians gathered nearby, many of them singing hymns as they watched a beloved piece of their heritage and national identity burn.

The total destruction of one of France’s most emblematic buildings has been averted, thanks to the efforts of more than 400 firefighters, who battled the flames through the night. Priceless relics have also been saved. Still, Paris is forever changed and its people have been left inconsolable. Images

of the devastation also affected millions across the world. From the UAE to Nigeria and Pakistan, people have taken

to social media to show their support, others have shared photos and memories of the treasured cathedral.

As the fire raged, Mr Macron told the press: “We will rebuild this cathedral, all of us together … This is doubtlessly part of France’s destiny.” However, it is estimated that the restoration of the historic cathedral will take at least 40 years and that the cost will be vast. World leaders have expressed their solidarity, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, has called upon EU states to take part in reconstruction efforts. Private individuals, from billionaires to everyday citizens, are also pledging funds. In fact, a campaign launched by the heritage organisation Fondation du Patrimoine was so inundated with donations that its website crashed. That so many people have been brought together by this sad event is fitting. Notre-Dame is much more than a tourist destination or even a place of worship. It is a symbol of shared humanity that has stood for almost a millennium, defying two world wars, and inspiring countless artists, writers and visitors. Its destruction and hope for its revival unite the world.

Updated: April 16, 2019 06:15 PM