Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007
In 1939, it was Notre Dame de Paris rather than the World Trade Center in New York that faced the threat of annihilation, but unlike the surprise attack on the WTC, France had an opportunity to take advanced action.
On September 11, 1939 Notre Dame de Paris’s stained glass windows were dismantled – and not returned until after World War II had ended and the Germans had definitively left Paris. Removal of stained glass windows occurred throughout France and in some cases (such as Saint Maclou in Rouen) it was well over 50 years before the stained glass returned home to its church.
Some claim that researchers were so eager to hold on to the stained glass to study composition – that they were loath to return the original stained glass to its proper place. Notre Dame has somehow withstood the ravages of war, revolution,and fires and perhaps the worst of all threats to survival – falling out of popularity.
By the 19th-century, Notre Damel had fallen into such disrepair (it had been used as a grainery and general food storage during the revolution) that city planners considered tearing it down. Thanks to Victor Hugo and his enormously successful Notre Dame de Paris also known as The Hunchback of Notre Damea renewed interest in the familiar landmark saved it from being demolished.
The first cornerstone of Notre Dame was set in the year 1163. Its construction ended in 1345. Paris’s bishop Sully said that he had a vision of this new cathedral in a dream. He demolished the older church which had been built in the same place (remnants can be seen in the crypt and the Notre Dame museum). Although one man had a vision, hundreds of architects, and thousands of laborers, craftsmen and masons worked over the centuries to create this living prayer.
Although Notre Dame de Paris is actually owned by the French government and allowed for use by the Roman Catholic church, the cathedral belongs in spirit to all the artisans who sacrificed their time, their sweat, and even in some cases their lives to create a work of beauty to be admired for centuries.
It’s easy to talk about ideals and principals – democracy – freedom – piety – words are cheap. Anybody can stand from a pulpit, a soap box, or a website – and spew out words.
Who can create beauty out of nothing but rock, glass and wood without divine inspiration?
Judge the man or the woman, judge the nation and its ideals by the fruit of their labor.