We have toured all over Europe. All historical tours include visits to important structures which reveal so much about the period through architecture style and decor.
More often than not, this building is a church. It doesn’t matter the religion of the people that used their talents and resources to construct the cathedral, mosque, or chapel.
Often the organized religion that hung up the first sign may have changed down through the years, many times circling back to the original foundation.
Guides explain the history and point out impressive elements. They begin to blur together after a few dozen churches, and we joke and say it’s “A.B.C.” or “Another Big Church”.
We have sat on ancient pews in huge places of worship. I have placed my hands on the wooden bench back in front of me and wondered how many thousands of hands have been in the same spot down through the hundreds of years.
I think about the interior of those Catholic Cathedrals and I can smell the incense mingled with the smoke from candles. Even if the church doesn’t allow open flames and now offers the tiny battery-powered-switch-on candles for prayers, the fragrance is infused into the bones of the building. You know where you are just by the scent that is so common.
We were on our way home from China when we learned about the fire at Notre Dame.
Strangers spoke in hushed tones on the airport train about the tragedy. Travelers from all over the world shared the sadness with the people of Paris, because we’ve been there.
With millions of visitors each year, and more tourists than the Louvre or even the Eiffel Tower, we have made our way to Notre Dame which means “Our Lady.”
I remember reading about this 12th century church in our grade school Weekly Reader newspaper. The little article mentioned a flying buttress and that term stuck in my head for some crazy reason.
I had no idea what it meant, whether it was food or fowl, and it was only in my college Humanities class I clued in it was an Gothic architecture design made to hold up a church.
My first trip to Paris included a visit to the historical monument. All of us that have been there have grainy pictures of the gargoyles that sit atop the roofline. Those scary looking creature’s job is to funnel rainwater and bad spirits away from this holy place.
You also have pictures of the brilliant stained glass rose windows. Hopefully it was a sunny day and the glass shown like a kaleidoscope of jewel-toned colors.
Multiple tours to ABC’s tell us that the images in the stained glass and tapestries of these churches were precursory to printed Bibles. Long before people were reading, they were learning the stories from the figures depicted in church art.
Someone told us once that you should never enter a home without addressing its owner. As I whisper a prayer in these old churches, I know that my voice is added to the millions of prayers that have been offered here.
Notre Dame is much more than Another Big Church... it is an engineering marvel, an artistic spectacle, and an historic wonder. Something built long before us that was intended to last long after us.
We are grateful that the damage from the fire wasn’t more than it was. We will hope and pray that the cathedral can be restored and will offer a spot to sit, pray and reflect for the thousands of believers for generations to come.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.