To Restore or Not to Restore Notre Dame

In April, the whole world watched as the famous cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burned. Due to an electrical failure from a major renovation, the church caught fire damaging centuries of craftsmanship, stained glass art, and the only spire. I remember being heartbroken by such an incident as I had fond memories of visits to the basilica with my family. Within days, there were promises from all around the world for hundreds of millions of dollars to be donated to the reconstruction of Notre Dame. These donations sparked many debates on the news and social media regarding whether or not these donations were admirable with problems such as world hunger and poverty in the world. After reading about opinions on all sides of the debate, I was anxious to know what French people in Paris actually thought about the topic. 

When I arrived in Paris, I saw Notre Dame my first day; it sat on the Île de la Cité lifeless, dark, and beaten down. As I sat in the taxi on the way to my home for the next six weeks, I asked the taxi driver what he thought about all of the donations for Notre Dame. He explained to me that his opinion was not as clear cut as most people he knows. He said that most adults in France are appalled by the idea of such exuberant wealth being poured into this cathedral when there exist many great feats of similar architecture and craftsmanship in France. In his hometown of Reims, there is another Notre Dame cathedral where the kings of France were crowned. He promised that it was as glorious as the Notre Dame in Paris, so it has been hard for him to understand the global fuss. However, he continued on to say that he thinks the restoration of Notre Dame is important for young people because they need to appreciate this landmark of French culture. According to him, young people also need to understand the importance of preserving history in this age of technology. 

**Inspired by this conversation, I decided to take a train to Reims to see the cathedral he described. I can confirm it emulates  Notre Dame of Paris and all its beauty; I was shocked.**

Notre Dame in Reims, France 

After a couple weeks at school, I decided to pose the same question to my professor during our mid-morning coffee break. Madame Vasilek reacted strongly to the topic expressing her strong disgust for such donations. She explained to me that France has its own means to take care of the restoration IN TIME. She stressed that there are problems much more pressing than Notre Dame and her heart ached for all the other ways this money could be used. 

One day, I found myself in a cafe doing some work and saw a woman reading an article on how the French state has yet to receive the promised funds for Notre Dame. I asked this woman, Aneshka, what she thought of the situation and ended up having a nice conversation. She said that for her the basilica of Notre Dame is an integral part of Paris’ identity. People come to Paris to climb the Eiffel Tower, see Notre Dame, and experience the Parisian way of life. She thought that it was necessary to protect this piece of French culture for the generations to come and added that it was better these rich donors were giving to a good cause as opposed to keeping all their money for themselves. She said that only time will tell about what the world really thinks of Notre Dame, but she prays to see a restored Notre Dame soon. 

From these conversations, I learned that the preservation of culture means something different to each person. I think Americans yearn to preserve every bit of history because we only have 300 years to consider, but for European countries, they have history flowing out of every inch of their city blocks. During a time when the future is nearer than the past, I thought these donations were admirable and absolutely necessary, but now, I am not quite sure.