PARIS – Monday around 6:20 p.m. local time, a fire alarm warned those in the Notre Dame cathedral of fire but none was found. Twenty minutes later smoke was visible pouring from the roof of Notre Dame de Paris as the top of structure was engulfed in flame. By 8:00 p.m. the central spire of the cathedral collapsed.
The devastation of watching the iconic structure that sits at the heart of Paris was reflected in the thoughts of many within the Pagan community as they commented on social media.
“My feelings about Notre Dame are not complex, the destruction of such a beautiful and sacred site is bad, full stop. That cathedral is special to millions of people, and holds priceless art and history. It’s a tragedy.”
Hundreds of Parisians filled the streets around the cathedral and came together to share their sorrow, a sign of unity that overcame any thoughts of differences. Loss is universal and unifying.
“May we save as much of the beauty of art, culture, and human aspiration as we can. May we remember and restore what we can. May our eye for beauty and majesty be greater than creeds, politics, differences of origin, and whatever current pains and conflicts cloud our sight.”
Ivo Dominguez, Jr.
Some of the posts by Pagans and polytheists reflected the complexity of conflicted thoughts and emotions.
“You don’t need my permission in any way but you are entitled to feel however you feel about the fire that has destroyed so much of Notre Dame de Paris. You may be feeling a confusing bundle of conflicting emotions. Go to your home altar and feel what you feel. Pray if you do that. Weep, if that is right for you. Acknowledge the extraordinary symbolism of this event at this time in this place. You are not required to wallow in guilt because you weep or, likewise, because you do not.
And no one, including me, is entitled to tell you how to feel about this, especially if your spiritual tradition harkens back to pre-Christian Europe. No one has that right. Go to your Divines and your Ancestors, and listen to Their counsel.
We well know–and remember–what this holy place means, in every sense. Sit with your great heart, your grief wrapped in your ragged soul, and know you are enough.
Let it be.”
H. Byron Ballard
“I’ve never been to Notre Dame, but I’ve visited other cathedrals in Europe. Immediately upon walking in I know I’m in a sacred place. They are temples to another God and another religion, but they give me some idea of what it must have been like to walk into the ancient temples of the Gods I worship. My feelings about the way Christianity conquered Europe and about the politics of the current Catholic Church do not diminish my feelings of sorrow at the damage to this sacred place.”
For those who are French or with French ancestry, the loss is even more poignant. Notre Dame is truly the heart of France. All distances in the country are measured by how far they are from the cathedral, literally, France’s “point zero.”
“The great fire that swept through Notre Dame today is a tragedy of history and beauty. When religious structures that have withstood the challenges of time are damaged, such as this church, we all feel the loss. While the structure may be rebuilt, the essence is diminished. I am thankful that there was no loss of life and that many of the things of religious value were saved. Je suis desole.” .
Jean “Drum” Pagano, ADF Archdruid
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a powerful and inspirational historical, cultural, and spiritual place, not only for Roman Catholic Christians in France but for people of many beliefs and countries. I am among the millions mourning the destruction caused by the tragic fire at this world heritage site today. Healing blessings to this Sacred Site and to Paris, to the firefighters and others who battled the blaze and are dealing with the aftermath, to France and the French people, to Roman Catholics and other Christians, and to all impacted by this tragedy. Notre Dame Cathedral, which is over 800 years old, has endured much over the centuries, including damage caused by wars, revolution, and neglect. May the Cathedral be repaired, restored, and renewed, and may the Divine as Our Lady, and as Great Mother in Her many forms guide this process now and in times to come. Blessed Be.
Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary
850-plus years of history have been witnessed by the Notre Dame walls –the crowning of Henry VI of England as king of France, Mary Queen of Scots was married to Francis II, the coronation of Napolean as Emperor of the French, Joan of Arc was beatified there, and Charles de Gaulle’s funeral was held there.
Few sites have touched so many lives; the web of grief has stretched to all of us around the world today, whether we have stood on the holy ground of Notre Dame, or admired it from afar, whether we are Catholic or Christian or of any faith at all. Some places touch us in ways we do not fully understand. I could not be more devastated had I learned of an earthquake swallowing the Great Pyramid of Khufu or a plane crashing into and crushing Stonehenge.
I think of all the human craftspeople who worked on the cathedral nearly two centuries, the millions who have sojourned to its sanctuary, and many more who have been struck with wonder at its beauty. Wonder is such a precious thing in life, and now a part of our wonder has perished in the flames. And yet, may it comfort the people of France to know they have nurtured wonder and beauty, and shared it freely with the world. Some phoenix of renewed beauty will no doubt rise from these ashes.
Holli S. Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary
Despite the events held within its walls, Notre Dame was constructed on a site that has a much longer history. The Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia lies beneath it on Île-de-la-Cité. The Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered in 1710, was erected by the guild of boatmen dating to 1 A.D. and possibly when a temple to the Roman god Jupiter was on the site. The pillar also bears the image of Cernunnos and directly named him.
By now, many of you have seen the news that Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral suffered a very significant fire Monday. While it’s under control finally, millions are mourning the loss of it’s sacred space, along with much of it’s art, iconography, and history, possibly including the Archaeological Crypt there designed to preserve evidence of early occupation by the Celtic Parisii tribe and later by Romans. My reaction is to respect those mourning the loss of sacred space, as we would want for ourselves, our ancestors, and our children. Such spaces will always have the potential to raise us up and help us be better humans, even despite the Church’s history.
Canu Nodiad, First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess
I had the privilege to visit Notre Dame while a Humanities student in Paris. I remember the first time I stepped through the doors and feeling the overwhelming size and antiquity of the Cathedral. I was enthralled at the enormity, stained glass, and statues and but also at the architectural perfection that is Notre Dame. While this fire is a tragedy erasing hundreds of years of history, it has been rebuilt time and again after other such devastations. I hope it will see a brighter future. My heart is with Paris and France as they mourn the loss of this Beautiful Lady.
Janine Nelson, PIO of Covenant of the Goddess
While a minority, other Pagans and polytheists found the destruction liberating. Some suggested the cathedral represented two millennia of Christian oppression and terrorism, and were happy the building was consumed in flames.
But the Steer of the Troth and founder of Urglaawe, Robert Schreiwer acknowledged the sentiment but focused treasures lost to the world in this fire and the terrible pain and devastation for the celebrants of Easter Week. The Steer noted,
The fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris has stunned the world. Although many Pagans and Heathens have issues with the methods that the Catholic Church used to build its wealth over many centuries, this cathedral is a world architectural and historical treasure. We are all diminished by its destruction, and our hearts go out to the worshipers who were looking forward to celebrating Christian Easter this coming Sunday.
There have been several fires, along with vandalism, at churches in France in recent months, and we’re seeing speculation in some social media circles that the fire may be suspicious. It is too early to make that determination; however, it is our sincere hope that no conscious human action caused this fire.
The Steer also mentioned that his kinswoman, Victoria Young, posted the following on behalf of the Urglaawe community:
The Distelfink Sippschaft of Urglaawe wishes to send their love, respect, and grief to the people of France upon the disaster at the Cathédrale Notre Dame in Paris. While the Catholic Church has not historically been the friend of non-Christian religions, we ache alongside the parishioners, the population of France, and the greater world, for the loss of such magnificent artwork, and the sheer dedication of humanity which created the Cathedral.
The Cathédrale Notre Dame has stood for over 850 years, through wars, plague, and revolution. We honour the Cathédrale Notre Dame, and acknowledge the joy that the Cathédrale Notre Dame has brought to many generations, whether it be through their religious beliefs or simply the beauty they have experienced while visiting.
Adrian Moran, member of the Council of Guardians for Fellowship of the Phoenix and also writes the blog, A Path Through the Woods, expresses the impact of history and mystery the cathedral contains, as well optimism for the future:
It’s a shock to see such an instantly recognizable landmark in flames. It is a repository of history and art. It is a temple to music, with its legendary organ. It was once dubbed the Temple of Reason during the anti-clerical days of the French Revolution. There is something essential about the place that reaches out to people of all backgrounds and beliefs, even as it’s a Catholic cathedral within a very secular country.
The archaeological crypt (open to the public) shows that site was used by the ancient Parisii people and the Romans as a spiritual center. The map of the modern city of Paris radiates out from this island in the Seine. Everything points to the specialness of the spot, and the spectacular architectural presence of the Gothic masterpiece of the building – with arches reaching toward heaven and elaborate stone carving firmly rooted in the earth – means that it has transcended the meaning of simply being a Christian church.
Notre Dame de Paris is a piece of the entire world’s cultural heritage. The damage is extensive, but I think it’s inevitable that the people of Paris will rebuild it and once again share the magic of this magnificent place with the world.
Tuesday morning also brought the welcome news that the famed Rose Windows survived the fire, intact. As a structure, the cathedral has survived many conflicts–the Huguenots, the French Revolution, and World War II. During WWII, the Rose Windows were disassembled and stored safely away should the Germans attempt to damage the cathedral. Many times during its long history, Notre Dame de Paris has been rebuilt and renovated.
Indeed, already private individuals and companies have pledged over 600 million euro to see Our Lady of Paris restored. Lucky coincidences like the 16 bronze sculptures that were attached to the spire and the surrounding roof being removed just days before due to the restoration efforts that were underway prior to the fire. In 2015, art historian, Andrew Tallon used lasers to scan the entire structure. He passed away in November of 2018, but his work may hold some of the keys to reconstruction.
At the time of writing, reports state that the Church remains structurally sound and the famous rose windows are safe. The wooden roof is gone. Many items were rescued during the fire and some- like the gargoyles- had been removed beforehand as part of the restoration. The heart of France may be a bit battered and will clearly be in need of convalescence, but it beats yet within the people of her country, as well as outside of it, spanning the globe.