All the Times Notre Dame was Almost Destroyed in the Past
On Monday just before 8 p.m. local time, an audible gasp rippled through the streets of Paris as bystanders watched the spire that towered above the Notre Dame Cathedral topple over in a fiery rush. The steeple had served as a symbol of cultural achievement, national pride, and faith for generations in France and the world over, and it was now gone.
It wasn’t the first time that the spire had been forcibly separated from the cathedral, but it was the most devastating. Since the very first stones were put in place for a grand church that would rise on the banks of the River Seine over 850 years ago, Notre Dame has not just borne witness to history, it has had parts of that history inscribed into its very architectural bones.
As the centuries passed, Notre Dame has garnered attention from forces both good and evil. There were the insurgents during the French Revolution who took issue with the church’s symbol of authority and decided to do some painful redecorating, and then their ideological descendants less than 100 years later, whose attempt to burn it down was thwarted. There were prominent cultural figures whose misguided aesthetic judgements resulted in painful losses, and those who came after to right the damage with a little extra editorializing. And then, of course, there were the everyday challenges of a massive cultural monument—maintenance, upkeep, and extreme weather.