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on seeing the reconstruction of notre-dame, february, 2020

In February, a month to the day before President Macron Instructed France to stay home because of the COVID-19 virus, I took the TGV to Paris. I had wanted to see the da Vinci exhibit at the Louvre and what remained after the fire of la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. I was looking forward to staying in the  neighborhood where Ernest Hemingway and Hadley had rented their first apartment in Paris.

From la rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement, where I had booked my room, it is an easy walk through some side streets, past the Panthéon and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, and then down Boulevard Saint-Michel to the Seine and to Notre-Dame.

The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then leveled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, then turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. There were lighted bars and late open shops on each side of the street.  —Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

On reaching the Seine, one sees immediately the scarred Notre-Dame, its steeple gone, and the disarray arranged around it. Temporary buildings and cranes and large fences that keep people from getting to close are everywhere.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

One wonders what will be put into place above the cathedral. Will the city be bold and build an ediface that challenges the imagination, as did Pei at the Louvre or Piano and Rogers did with the Pompidou Center.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Along rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame, the northern side of Notre Dame, one can see a series of exhibits that line the street that describe how the cathedral will be repaired. The restoration was paused for three weeks, but now has continued. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

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