LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Notre Dame Cathedral is visited by 13 million people every year, including tourists from right here in the Lake Area.
“It’s at the heart, the absolute heart, of of the nation of France. The spot from which all places are measured in France is directly in front of the main doors of that Cathedral,” Adley Cormier, a local historian, said. He has visited Paris multiple times and while he says the Cathedral can always be rebuilt, the history behind it cannot.
“You cannot build into a structure 900 years of man and woman using the building for religious purposes. For baptisms, for weddings, for funerals. You cannot recapture the smells and the sounds of that sort of antiquity,” Cormier said.
“I was devastated when I found out what was taking place,” Bishop Glen Provost, the Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles, said. “I first saw the Cathedral in 1972 when I went to school in Paris. I celebrated Mass there a number of times and visited there subsequently many times over the last few decades. So it was devastating. It’s a tragic event.”
Provost saying it’s more than just a structure in France’s capitol city.
“It’s a part of the fabric of civilization,” Provost said. “The building is 800 years old and built on a very historic spot. It has historic, artistic, cultural, importance. For not only the French, but also for the Catholic Church and the world.”
Construction on Notre Dame began in 1163. Renovations worth $6.3 million were being completed when the fire started, which caused the roof to collapse and destroyed a spire.
Matt Young, who walked through the Cathedral just five weeks ago, says it was the highlight of his trip.
“I remember walking up to it for the first time and just really being overwhelmed by the magnitude of that building, from both the architectural and historic significance of it," Young said. "Napoleon Bonaparte, who signed the Louisiana purchase, was crowned emperor in that building. It’s withstood the test of time, bombings, world wars, natural disasters for 850 years. So to lose a building like that in one day to a senseless fire seems like we were robbed.”
Cormier says the event serves as a reminder that everything, even iconic landmarks, don’t last forever.
“You just don’t know because anything man makes or woman makes is fragile," Cormier said. "Nothing is eternal. Just because they have been there doesn’t mean they will always be there and in terms of preservation, that’s a loss of culture that cannot be replaced. You know, if you lose the Sonnets of Shakespeare, you can find them in a book somewhere else. In this case you cannot find a Notre Dame Cathedral somewhere else. I mean there are other Gothic cathedrals certainly, this particular one has such a long tradition that is connected specifically with the history of France. It’s sort of like having your heart, your beating heart, pulled out of you.”