It was with great sadness that we all watched Notre Dame billow in smoke yesterday. We saw the near destruction of 100’s of years of world culture and a blow to the heart of Paris, a tragedy which struck at the literal and figurative heart of the city. It is hard to explain the importance of Notre Dame to the city. It is a Catholic cathedral, but she is more secular monument than a religious one. She took generations to build; she stood through revolutions and countless wars; she overlooked the city as it grew into one of the most important ones in the world. She welcomed thousands daily, with no care to religious or national allegiance. It was a beacon of the best of Paris. In a window of just a couple hours, that history nearly went up in smoke.
Aperture Tours is a global company, but our start was in Paris, Alexander lives in Paris, and I lived in Paris for the vast majority of my adult life (having just left for Amsterdam days before). We feel this loss in our hearts. Personally, I spent two hours not taking my eyes off the news feed, waiting for final, inevitable death blow that was to come, the falling of the bell towers… but luckily that never happened. We could see the firefighters rushing into the blaze to save not just the building, but the cultural artefacts that were inside and thanks to their bravery, the structure held.
An investigation has been launched into what started the fire. Here are a few important facts:
The Paris prosecutor said there is no evidence of a deliberate act, and are treating it as an accident.
2/3 of roof has gone. Part of it was from the 13th century, but the rest of it was only from the 19th century. Most of the stone roof under the top roof is fine.
The stained glass rose windows are safe.
The building is in the midst of a 20-year restoration, and as a consequence 16 statues that rest on the roof were removed four days before the accident.
There were no deaths, but a firefighter was reportedly badly injured.
Firefighters managed to save most of the treasures, including the Crown of Thorns and the Tunic of Saint Louis.
The design of the building, and with the help of the flying buttresses, means the cathedral has withstood the fire much better than many feared and the towers seem to be structurally intact.
Today, our hearts are heavy, the city is in mourning and we Parisians have again been tossed on the rough seas of this world. But we remember what Notre Dame once was and what it can be again. We remember why we love this monument and this city and why we will stand on the banks of the Seine through the next decade, camera in hand to witness its rebirth. Paris stands strong; we stand strong. And like other times when the city's resolve has been tested, the Latin motto of Paris rings as clearly in our memory as the bells of Notre Dame. Fluctuat nec mergitur. Tossed, but never sunk.
With that, we wanted to leave you with a little ode to Notre-Dame de Paris that we have been gracious to have shoot over the years, from the photographers of Aperture Tours.
Author: William Lounsbury
William is a photographer in Amsterdam and Paris with Aperture Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. A professional photographer specialising in photojournalism, William enjoys to get off the beaten track and shoot spontaneous moments as they are presented to him.
View more of William's work at his profile
Photographer: Alexander J.E. Bradley
Alexander is the founder of Aperture Tours which run photography tours in the most photogenic cities across the globe. A professional photographer for over a decade, Alexander enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.
View more of Alexander's work on his profile