I was 17 the first time I entered Notre, and 28 the last time. With every visit, I stood in the entryway and looked up at the towering ceilings and felt my eyes well up. I'm not a spiritual person, but was always struck by its beauty and size and how timeless this structure felt when standing, almost shrinking, inside it. As cathedrals go, it was one of the most humbling.
Words cannot describe how breathtaking it was, in all of its different aspects. It had steeply sloping stone ceilings of meticulously laid stone, flamboyant flying buttresses bracing the walls, and gargoyles both stoically pensive on their perches and grotesquely sputtering water in the rain. Its massive expanses of stained glass glittered like jewels, a magnet to the sunlight. It was best enjoyed when a choir was practicing hymns. Its bells could be heard echoing throughout the neighborhood, on the hour. It had many faded paintings inside and weathered statues outside, from a millennium of different eras. The copper sculpture of St. Thomas was maybe my favorite, at the base of the spire. The spire's architect somewhat egotistically chose to depict himself as St. Thomas, the patron saint of architects, looking up admiringly at his work and away from the crowds below and the rest of the cathedral, measuring tool draped in hand behind him.
Watching footage of this same spire collapse and cave in through the roof below and knowing that none of it will ever be the same makes me very, very sad.
Thinking of all the people of Paris today.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.