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Paris: To Notre-Dame with Love

Paying tribute to Notre-Dame (Photo by Theadora Brack, River Boat Ride, March 2019)

Paying tribute to Notre-Dame (Photo by Theadora Brack, River Boat Ride, March 2019)

By Theadora Brack

Thanks to the courageous firefighters and emergency workers, Notre-Dame’s 18th century Grand Organ was rescued—with all of its 8,000 pipes still intact, we think. “None of the pipes have appeared to collapsed,” organ builder Bertrand Cattiaux told The New York Times. “We can just cross our fingers and wait.”

The bell towers were also saved. I’m still waiting for an update on my bells.
Did you know they have names?

Thanks to the courageous firefighters and emergency workers, Notre-Dame’s Grand Organ and bell towers were saved (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

Thanks to the courageous firefighters and emergency workers, Notre-Dame’s Grand Organ and bell towers were saved (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

Meet the bells

As part of the Notre-Dame’s 850th birthday fête back in 2013, nine new bells were introduced: Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Geneviève, and Gabriel, along with six-ton Marie. Using medieval casting techniques, eight of them were broken free from their molds at the Cornille Havard Bell Foundry in Normandy.

Cast as a diva from the start, grand bell Marie was cast in the Netherlands.

Since 1856, the bells of Notre-Dame have rung every fifteen minutes. They also rang to mark the end of World War I and the liberation of Paris in 1944 (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

Since 1856, the bells of Notre-Dame have rung every fifteen minutes. They also rang to mark the end of World War I and the liberation of Paris in 1944 (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

Perfect harmony

These shiny new bells replaced Napoleon’s 19th century bells (Angélique-Françoise, Antoinette-Charlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne and Denise-David), which had never quite been on pitch. The oldest Bourbon bell (13-ton Emmanuel, a deeply resonant and accurate F-sharp) survived both the French Revolution and the recent turnover. Created in the 15th century, Emmanuel is located in the south tower, where he still supports the newbies—restoring the 17th century pealing in harmony.

Without fail, since 1856, the bells of Notre-Dame have rung every fifteen minutes. They also rang to mark the end of World War I and the liberation of Paris in 1944.

These great chimes have always inspired me. So yesterday, I reached for my tattered copy of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (Postcard, T. Brack's collection)

These great chimes have always inspired me. So yesterday, I reached for my tattered copy of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (Postcard, T. Brack’s collection)

Down through the years

For the love of Quasimodo, these great chimes have always inspired me. So yesterday, I reached for my tattered copy of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris.

After all, we have Victor’s keen vision to thank for the cathedral’s previous renovation in the 19th century, which followed the 1831 publication of the novel, and preserved it up till now. A “vast symphony in stone” he wrote, jump-starting the sightseeing frenzy and inspiring mobs of visiting fans to pay homage with copies of his book in hand.

A “vast symphony in stone” Victor Hugo wrote, jump-starting the sightseeing frenzy and inspiring mobs of visiting fans to pay homage with copies of his book in hand (Postcard, T. Brack's collection

A “vast symphony in stone” Victor Hugo wrote, jump-starting the sightseeing frenzy and inspiring mobs of visiting fans to pay homage with copies of his book in hand (Postcard, T. Brack’s collection)

Here’s a favorite passage

Without a doubt the Cathedral of Notre-Dame is, even today, a majestic and sublime edifice. Though it has preserved a noble mien in aging, it is difficult to suppress feelings of sorrow and indignation at the countless injuries and mutilations which time and man have wrought upon this venerable monument between the time of Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, and that of Phillip-Augustus, who laid its last.

On the face of this old queen of French cathedrals, beside each wrinkle you also find a scar . . . This central, mother-church is a sort of chimera among the other old churches in Paris; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the back of a third—something from every one . . . Notre-Dame is a structure of transition.

Paris will survive. Notre-Dame will survive. (Postcard, T. Brack's collection)

Paris will survive. Notre-Dame will survive. (Postcard, T. Brack’s collection)

Symphony in stone

Yes, the Notre-Dame Cathedral will survive. Paris will survive. Don’t forget, the city’s heraldic symbol is a boat on waves surrounded by a motto that says something to the effect that no matter how rough it gets, she keeps on floating, “Fluctuat nec mergitur!” A 14th century mantra: “Tossed by the waves but never sunk!”

Don’t forget, the city’s heraldic symbol is a boat on waves surrounded by a motto that says something to the effect that no matter how rough it gets, she keeps on floating. A 14th century mantra: “Tossed by the waves but never sunk!” (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

One last look at Notre-Dame’s now fallen spire. Will they replace it? (Photo by Theadora Brack, March 2019)

 

 

 

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43 thoughts on “Paris: To Notre-Dame with Love

  1. What a lovely tribute you’ve written to my favorite place in Paris, Theadora. As I watched the orange fireball emerge and the spire collapse on Monday night, I wept inconsolably in fear that all was lost. But since then I’ve been weeping with gratitude as news has trickled out that the bells … the statues … the windows … and now the organ somehow survived. It gives me hope that a century or two from now our descendants will continue to walk into this building and feel AWE, as so many countless generations have before them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • More positive news to share: I think the rooftop honeybees at Notre-Dame survived. According to Beeopic Apiculture’s Instagram feed, the gentle Buckfast bees were spotted buzzing around the gargoyles.

      What a miracle. My wings are crossed. By the way, Beeopic’s drone shots are also on their Facebook page.

      And thanks for your thoughtful words. Yes, I also wept.
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just saw the update about the bees too, dear Theadora. It does seem miraculous, doesn’t it!? How wonderful. How wonderful …

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the bees are now doing a-okay.

        More positive news: On Friday, I received the update below from the Louvre regarding the rescued May painting series. Whew. What a relief.

        The Evacuation of the works present in the Cathedral Notre-Dame De Paris took place on several days, from Tuesday 16 April to Friday 19 April.

        The treasure and the two most important paintings of the series of “Mays” (the dwarf and lubin baugin) have been transferred to the museum. The other “Mays”, transported to an outdoor reserve, do not present any apparent damage.

        Liked by 1 person

      • YAY! More good news to celebrate, Theadora. Thank you for (once again) making my day.

        Like

    • Thank you.

      Another positive news update: The tunic of Saint Louis (King Louis IX) was also rescued. A hair shirt, I do believe. The art was moved to the Louvre for restoration.

      Theadora

      Like

  2. During my long long long ago summer session at the Sorbonne, I lived in a foyer on the Ile St Louis and walked by Notre Dame every day on my way to school; well, really passed it on the way to most things I did. It seemed so “forever” then, anchoring the city with its beauty. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos and info.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The summertime? What a wonderful memory. What a wonderful place in Paris to live. Did you take any photographs?

      I love your line: “Anchoring the city with its beauty.” I completely agree.

      Take care,
      Theadora

      Like

  3. The world was watching and waiting. The bells of Wells Cathedral rang out last night in sympathy and harmony for what was lost. Notre Dame will rise again. Thanks T for your lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mary. I’ve been re-reading Victor Hugo’s 1831 Notre-Dame de Paris. B

      Here’s another favorite passage. Brilliant writing by Hugo! Joyful,too.

      On that day the air was so fresh and clear that Quasimodo felt his affection for his bells returning. Clapping his hands, he ran to and fro from one rope to another, awakening his six songsters by this voice and his gestures, as a maestro leads his skilled musicians.

      “Go on! Go on, Gabrielle!” he said, “Pour all your music into the square. Today’s a feast day. Thibauld, don’t be lazy. You’re slowing down! Go, go on! Are you becoming rusty, loafer? That’s it. Quick! Quick! Don’t let the clapper be seen. Make them all deaf like me. That’s it, bravo! Thibauld!

      Guillaume! Guillaume! You’re the biggest, but Pasquier’s the smallest, and Pasquier swings better than you! Those who can hear, I’ll wager you, hear him better than you! Well done! Gabrielle! Louder, louder! Hey! You up there, you sparrows! I don’t see you making any noise. What’s the matter with those brazen beaks of yours, that seems to be yawning when they ought to be singing? Come on, work! Sing! There’s beautiful sunshine; we have to have beautiful music!

      Like

    • And the rooftop honeybees at Notre-Dame survived! I’ve been following Beeopic Apiculture’s Instagram feed. Repeating the miraculous tale: The bees were spotted buzzing with the gargoyles.

      Paris has about 700 hives throughout the city. Musée d’Orsay boutique often sells the honey from Jardin du Tuileries crew. It’s fantastic. The Opéra also sells local honey. Don’t ask me how many jars are in my refrigerator. I’m hooked.

      Take care,
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dearest Theadora,
    On our last day in Paris my daughter and I stood arm in arm outside Notre- Dame and listened to the bells. We had a joyous time together. Telling each other “we will always have Paris”. I didn’t know it was to be our last holiday together. XXXOOO Virginia

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Virginia, Oh, this also breaks my heart. Down through the years, I’ve read your incredibly touching tributes. I’ve also seen the photographs. What an amazing, talented woman. Beautiful, too. As always thanks for sharing your gorgeous passages.

      Sending big hugs,
      Theadora

      Like

  5. Oh Theodora – what a wonderful walk through history with you. I did not know that the bells have names. I continue to learn. It is a joy to stop by (this is my third time to this post).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words! More positive news: I just received the update below from the Louvre regarding the rescued May painting series:

      The Evacuation of the works present in the Cathedral Notre-Dame De Paris took place on several days, from Tuesday 16 April to Friday 19 April.

      The treasure and the two most important paintings of the series of “Mays” (the dwarf and lubin baugin) have been transferred to the museum. The other “Mays”, transported to an outdoor reserve, do not present any apparent damage.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for bring a smile to this horrific event through your touch of history. Although I’m currently on blog break, I had to stop by in support of all of France and humanity that appreciate this grand structure. Unfortunately, I have not seen it – but my wife has, so the news touched her memories. Strength to all Parisians during this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Frank, Thanks for the visit. Thanks for your message of strength. Maybe one day you’ll visit Notre-Dame with your wife? The Seine, too! I’d love to read one of your Paris riverside walks.

      Enjoy your blog break. I’m sure you are gathering inspiration for future posts.

      Take care,
      Theadora

      Like

  7. I have read and only partly understood Fulcanelli’s Le Mystère des Cathédrales. I do know that every cathedral in the world is built on a sacred site,, that Norte Dame replaces a smaller cathedral, and that replaced a “pagan” place of worship. Cathedrals are nodal points in a world grid long forgotten by most John Michel (The view over Atlantis) and your beautiful lady a queen among them. They are instruments themselves, not just the organs within, but as you say, the bells, the light, stained glass, the spires that connect us to the sky gods. Of course she will rise again, as in yin and yang there is growth sustenance and paring. This is the latter, but with it come’s new birth. I will always recall Lon Chaney riding the bell ( I don’t recall the name but know he tells us) and exclaiming “she made me deaf!” And still joyful to feel the vibrations through his body. The fire has freed up so much energy that will now pour life back into her … we are sad, and yet anticipating her future with joy. Blessings for you and for the City of Lights!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apologies for my delayed response! Thanks to you, I watched and re-watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. Have you seen this version? Directed by William Dieterle in 1939, it’s incredibly moving. Cheesy, too!

      According to my research, it was T.M.C.’s first film restoration project. I’ll dig up the trailer.

      Thanks for such thoughtful words. I haven’t seen Wallace Worsley’s 1923 version, staring Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller. Not yet. It’s on my list.

      Take care,
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was very you and saw it so many times on WOR Million Dollar Movie … I think it was Charles Laughton! Have to take a look back. Hope all is well… ah, Paris in the Spring!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Theadora, I knew you would post a heartfelt tribute. Thank you so much. My heart sank when I saw the images being posted as the tragedy was a occurring. We will be in Paris in mid May and had planned to return to Odettes where we could sip champagne and look directly at magnificent Notre Dame…. perhaps not now, would be too hard to enjoy….ps I was very happy to hear the bees survived!

    Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure Theadora. Thank you for the post. (You beat me to the finish line, I was working on one, only put it up yesterday) 🙂
        “Alpinistes” are a good idea. Much quicker that the “traditional” entreprises de bâtiment! I wonder whether Sylvain Tesson was one of them. I hear he has escalated ND several times. He just published a great text on Notre-Dame.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Une tragédie pour la France, pour Paris, pour toutes et tous qui sommes amoureux/es de Notre Dame… A beautiful tribute dear friend ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Notre Dame is so iconic and such an amazing piece of gothic architecture. I’ve only been to Paris once and it was on a work trip, but I did manage to find time to visit the cathedral and I was very glad I did. It will be interesting to see how they go about the restoration.

    Liked by 1 person

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