Sophie Gilbert, writing for The Atlantic:
What seems hopeful, though, is that it will be rebuilt, because the history of sacred structures is defined by exactly this cycle of ruin and repair. Cathedrals in Europe are palimpsests, built and rebuilt on the same sites over thousands of years: They bear additions and repairs—and sometimes total reconstruction—by countless hands. Notre Dame, for example, is believed to have been put up on the original site of a temple to Jupiter. Four separate churches predated its consecration, and all were destroyed, or demolished, before the cornerstone for Notre Dame was laid in the springtime of 1163, 856 years ago. Notre Dame’s spire, the one that burned on Monday, was added in the 19th century, replacing the original, which had been weakened by the elements over the course of 500 years.Notre-Dame Isn’t Lost
Notre Dame is a symbol, and a collection of old materials, and most importantly, a sacred space. It exists because generations of humans have attached meaning to its enclosure. And like all physical things, it will crumble and decay. It has before, and it will again. But we keep rebuilding. And that is its meaning.
If you want to feel what is special about Notre Dame, feel the collective pain of watching it burn, and the collective determination to make it whole again. It is not the ancient wood or stone that imbues it with meaning or emotionality. It is this determination to reflect on our collective past and strive again to preserve the sacred space for ourselves and our children. The cycle of destruction and construction is both inevitable and human.
The Onion, of course, makes this point in its own special way.
Notre Dame was built, destroyed, and rebuilt over the course of hundreds of years, and we will rebuild it again, only to watch it decay once more, for indeed that is its fate, as it is the fate of all of man’s works. Like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, we will endeavor to fix the cathedral despite all empirical evidence to the contrary, in a world which demonstrates time and time again that there is nothing real to be found in worshipping the ersatz edifices that serve as a sorry facsimile of any real human connection.Paris Vows To Rebuild Notre Dame Despite Cosmic Absurdity Of Seeking Inherent Meaning In Fleeting Creations Of Man
Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. But Notre Dame is special because it is powerful evidence that we keep trying, and we always will. Notre Dame retains its meaning, especially now.