Illustration by Thecla Li/ THE CHIMES
On Monday morning, the famous Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire most likely due to an accident from renovation construction. The spire and roof collapsed, but the firefighters were able to save the rest of the building and the people inside. For students at Biola, this global event left students grieving, shocked and wanting to know more.
The sacred cathedral, located in the heart of Paris, holds sentimental value for many, from members of the Catholic church to those who have grown up watching the movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Sophomore nursing major Emma Denis was born and raised in France. She felt that the destruction of the cathedral impacted all of French culture because of its long-standing historic significance.
“There is a fire one day and half of it was destroyed, but it went through several wars and was under the occupation of the Nazis and it was still preserved,” Emma Denis said.
According to the Notre Dame Cathedral’s official website, the construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 and was officially dedicated by archbishop of Paris Georges Darboy in 1864. The cathedral is located in the heart of Paris, and according to the New York Times approximately 12 million people visit Notre Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris. The building includes large stained glass windows, marble arches and several pieces of artwork that distinguish the cathedral from many others in France.
Emma’s sister Laura, a freshman music major, also shared how the cathedral is a major symbol for her country.
“I am not linked to it religiously, but for me, it is a real symbol of the country I am from,” Laura Denis said. “It is the heart of French culture because it is a representation of Paris and French architecture.”
The cathedral stands as a monument of French culture and is a building that many never thought would be facing destruction.
“I was like, ‘Is that actually happening?’ It’s just such a big building and it was really hard to picture such an important monument being attacked like this,” Emma Denis said. “I thought it was something that was kind of untouchable and such a big part of French culture and a part of Paris that I thought would never be affected by something like that.”
BUILDING OF HOLY SPACES
While Notre Dame plays a major role in French culture, it also acts as a holy space for believers to commune with God. Senior biblical and theological studies major Andrew Morgan started the Ex Aqua Catholic Club on campus. He says the religious artwork in holy spaces allows worshippers to feel certain emotions in reverence to God.
“Churches serve as a holy space for people to come and worship,” Morgan said. “Cathedrals and most Catholic churches, in particular, are built with the goal of evoking an emotion of heaven coming to earth, because that is what we believe happens in the Eucharist but also in the incarnation of Christ and him coming to the earth… And that is why there is intentionality put into almost all of the artwork to evoke a sense of reverence.”
Although the French cathedral was across the ocean for Morgan, being a member of the Catholic faith made the news of the damage much harder to hear.
“It was an overall feeling of heaviness and tears and I don’t know why,” Morgan said. “I’ve never been to Notre Dame. I’ve never studied it, but to see the space that was dedicated as holy be burned and ruined is sad. It resounds in our soul of holy spaces and how valuable they are.”