By Jullie Daza
Is Paris burning?
The first TV images of Notre Dame cathedral engulfed in flames made it look as if the whole city was on fire.
But then the cathedral is not called Notre Dame (Our Lady) of Paris for no reason.
Of the list of 49 titles bestowed by faith and tradition on Mary as the Litany of the Most Blessed Virgin, starting with “Holy Mary” and ending with “Queen of Peace,” Our Lady of Paris is not one of them.
And yet that’s who she is, the virgin mother, queen, Mediatrix of all graces, to Parisians and the rest of the French people as well as the millions of other nationalities, including atheists, who have been to the cathedral – 13 million visitors a year – and awed by the majesty of its Gothic architecture and the priceless beauty of its sacred relics.
If Notre Dame is the soul of Paris, then its world-famous rose window is the heart of the cathedral, a stained-glass masterpiece that illuminates the meaning of faith when words fail.
Saved as if by a miracle, along with the church’s gold-encased (to protect it from oxidation) crown of thorns and golden cross that glowed through the night as firefighters fought to contain the flames, the stained-glass marvels – so delicate, so strong – are unlike any other ornament within the church, though I speak from a purely personal point of view.
It is a double tragedy that the fire which brought down the Lady’s iconic spire should happen on the second day of Holy Week.
Although investigators have ruled it an accident in the course of renovation work at 6:50 p.m. (Paris time, Monday) being undertaken by five different companies, the superstitious who see coincidences in time, place, and even find it hard to toss the feeling that something was off, things were not what they seemed.
Maybe that’s the way to cope with such a huge loss, rather like finding superficial excuses to explain why a heart has to be broken so irreparably by the pettiest of reasons.