16 April 2019

Notre DameIt’s astonishing how much a building or space can impact you emotionally. I remember walking into Durham Cathedral for the first time. I was stunned. The colossal building, with ornate details and gigantic structures, as a boy from Denbigh, I’d never seen anything like it.

I spent many years there, singing as a chorister. That journey saw me singing in St Paul’s, in Westminster Abbey and in York Minster. And in the second smallest cathedral in the world, St Asaph. Having the opportunity to sing in these extraordinary locations is still one of the greatest honours of my life.

Since those days, I’ve been drawn to these buildings, to the magic within them, to the epic grandeur of both the physical structure, the spiritual value to so many, and to the decades, if not centuries, of history held within those walls.

So seeing Notre Dame alight last night, my heart broke. Centuries of memories, of craftsmanship and beauty lost forever to the flames. Seeing crowds of Parisians sombrely singing ‘Ave Maria’ as Notre Dame was claimed by the fire, is something that will stay with me forever.

 

Memories

Notre Dame's stained glass windows

Notre Dame’s iconic stained-glass windows.

This isn’t just a building, a structure. It’s more than that. Its building blocks are centuries of memories, of history and of faith. Religious or not, there is no denying the sacredness, the magic, of the place.

So many people have their own memories there. One of my team told me of lighting a candle to remember her grandfather, when she visited on her first holiday with her now husband. Another reminisced about the feeling he still remembers more than a decade on, of sitting in the square out the front, gazing at it in the sunlight. How he could sit for hours and just soak up the history of the place.

The cathedral is special to so many, for so many reasons.

It’s little short of a miracle that the two iconic bell towers were saved from the flames, and that the structure remains intact to begin the rebuilding process. Equally, it’s a remarkable sight to see one of the iconic, medieval rose stained-glass windows, The Rosace Nord, still in place whilst others around it were blown out by the fire. Reportedly the window was largely unaltered in the 800 years since it was first created. The glass retains original pieces from the 13th Century. These are moments in time, priceless glimpses into the past that simply cannot be rebuilt.

Time to rebuild

Now, it is time to rebuild. To begin a new era for the cathedral, with new memories and history. The image being shared this morning of the cross illuminated in the rubble, I am sure is a sign for many that all is not lost. That the building may be damaged, but that the core of what made the place so magical and special to so many, is very much still there.

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