‘The heart and soul of France,’ Professors Discuss Historical, Cultural Significance of Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of the most recognizable churches in the world and considered a piece of living history.

“It’s a tragedy. This is a building like no other in France, but I would argue in the world, in that it does hold so much of French history,” CMU French Professor Dr. Christi Brookes, said.

From medieval times to present day, no one building holds the heart of France quite like Notre Dame.

“It’s a tragedy both from a religious standpoint but also from a national, historical and identity stand point,” Brookes, said.

“It’s been around for a very long time and it’s seen a lot,” she added.

It’s an iconic cathedral for Catholics across the world.

The church was a both a gathering for the poor and where kings were crowned throughout its history.

“It really is the heart and soul of France in that it was a center of gathering during the middle ages. It was the poor man’s bible, people who couldn’t read could learn the story of the gospel there; up to napoleon being crowned the emperor there at the beginning of the 19th century,” Brookes explained.

Many watched in despair, as fire tore through the roof on Monday.

The seemingly invincible church that miraculously survived the French Revolution and two world wars was almost lost.

“When Paris is liberated from the Germans in 1944, the bells of Notre Dame were ringing out Paris’ liberation,” Brookes added.

A cathedral that was more than a place of worship, likely why the damage struck a chord with people of all walks of life.

“I think that was a big [pleasant] surprise, over how many people took it to heart,” NCMC History Professor Larry Cummings said.

“It’s just the fact that it was a shock because it had been there so long, that we forget that even if we think it’s going to be there, it sometimes won’t be there. Luckily it wasn’t the whole thing,” Cummings added.