Notre-Dame Blaze – A Perspective

The Initial News

Like the rest of the world, I was horrified to wake up to the news that  Notre-Dame de Paris was lit up in flames.

It was truly disheartening and shocking to see the footage of the beautiful (850 year-old) Parisian masterpiece ablaze.

I’m in Japan and was a bit late to get the news but I quickly caught up and discovered the blaze was “under control”.  Instantly I was relieved to know the two iconic towers, dating back to the 12th century, and the facade had been saved. Even better news, there were no deaths and the few injuries that were sustained had been minimal.

Social Media

My social media was soon filled with pics of selfies in front of the iconic “heart” of Paris.

I thought back to when I was in Paris last fall and wondered if I’d taken a selfie or cheesy Instagram capture. Um – Nope.  My friend and I  walked by the sprawling beauty that September day and only stopped to marvel at the massive queue. We didn’t entertain the idea of waiting  – not even for a millisecond. Other Paris delights beckoned us away.

The reality is that I’ve been to Paris twice and neither time did I prioritize a visit to “Our Lady”. Content to look at the architectural jewel from a distance. Cause let’s face it – I’ve seen loads of churches since moving to Europe, and to me, they are all a bit the same. Sorry (not sorry) folks – that may sound spoiled, but it’s my truth. Europe is admittedly full of beautiful churches. Many of them are in France and are arguably just as old (even older), and just as gorgeous as Notre-Dame de Paris. You might just have to get out of the big cities to find them.

The Headlines

Yesterday morning, I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband was coughing up over 100 million Euros to the cause. It made sense to me, he’s French and likely Catholic and hey who am I to judge how a billionaire throws around his or her money.

Subsequent headlines then said the L’Oreal family was throwing in a couple of hundred million Euros, and also one of the big champagne families.

This morning, I read in The Japan News that the Japanese Government is kicking in and that Apple Inc. has also pledged to help out too.

Over 700 million Euros has been pledged. All great news….I guess.

The Reality

I started to do a little research because I couldn’t help but wonder about a few things.

One being, how much damage was really done? The answer to that seems to be unknown. But the major art and priceless valuables made it out. The towers, stained glass, and facade survived. The spire fell but it was from the 19th Century and the oak roof is gone. Plus, there is likely a load of water damage. Is it going to cost over 700 million to repair?  Way beyond my scope to say. But, it seems that a major bullet was dodged and far from all was lost.

There also seems to be a load of experts that feel: “the writing was on the wall”. Meaning the church wasn’t being maintained properly and was in pretty bad disrepair.

A further article popped up regarding a proposed tax write off for the French billionaires donating the big bucks. Which means the donations might actually fall on the French tax paying people. Douche move. However, not approved – only proposed.

I also found that there are a lot of homeless people in France. About “140,000, with 30,000 of those being children and over 3000 people living on the streets of Paris.”

So, I dug a little deeper, and found that the Catholic Church has an estimated net worth of “15 Billion” and that the current Pope is worth about “75 million”. Yep! The Pope has a lot of personal money! I thought the same thing.

Homeless woman in Paris
Photo: AFP

The Future

I understand that Notre Dame is more than a church to the French people. It’s an iconic centre of their culture and the “heart” of their “great” City.

I also understand that Notre Dame survived two World Wars and the French Revolution, and it’s a beacon of strength for many. I mostly understand that it’s a Gothic architectural masterpiece, and a historical monument.

But, I can’t understand why a man-made Catholic Church commands the ability for the world to rise up and want to fix it at whatever cost. Yet these same people seem rather oblivious to the plight of some of their own countrymen. They likely pass over a homeless person without thinking twice.

I also don’t understand what it means to lose a space of worship and how confounded that might make a “worshipper” feel.

But you will never convince me that spending hundreds of millions on a man-made structure (that was already neglected) takes precedence over human need. Especially when said structure is already backed by an exuberantly wealthy organization. We have some very important global humanitarian problems that could greatly benefit from a fraction of the money raised for Notre Dame.

At the end of the day, a beautiful and iconic church caught on fire. It was mostly saved. Nobody died. Does it warrant hundreds of millions of Euros to restore? I say, definitely NO.

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