The Notre-Dame tragedy – Reflections of an artist, an academic, a diplomat and a writer

epaselect epa07509110 French firemen enter the Notre-Dame Cathedral as flames are burning the roof cathedral in Paris, France, 15 April 2019. A fire started in the late afternoon in one of the most visited monuments of the French capital. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The helplessness with which we witnessed the fire engulfing the Notre Dame cathedral kicks off various thoughts.

Corporate Dispatch sought the views of Artist James Vella Clark, Lecturer Dr Charlene Vella, Maltese Ambassador in France Helga Mizzi and Social Media writer Angie Balzan.

A reminder of the fragility of life 

Artist James Vella Clark

This incident reminds us of the fragility of life in all its forms and dimensions. Nothing is here to stay. It also reminds us that what we always take for granted might no longer be with us tomorrow. It’s painful watching the footage. It is not only a symbol of Christianity but also one of the most beautiful examples of high Gothic expression – a landmark in the development of architecture in the middle ages.

As such, not even beauty can ever be taken for granted.

Monuments and arts can’t be taken for granted 

Dr Charlene Vella 

It is truly such a sad day. We take such monuments for granted. We expect Notre Dame to be there the next time we return to Paris. What took centuries to be built, beginning in the second half of the twelfth century – well over 800 years ago – is gone. Or almost, at this point. It survived so much throughout its history. Notre Dame was not only an important Parisian landmark. It was important for its sheer size, for the development of the Gothic architectural idiom. It’s the epitome of French Gothic. Such a tragedy. Cultural heritage is being forever lost.

Shocking events 

Ambassador Helga Mizzi 

Events yesterday evening were truly shocking, for all humanity, not only Parisians or the people of France. The loss entailed is an immeasurable one in terms of universal cultural heritage, that goes way beyond an individual creed or country.

I was very touched by the expression of support and solidarity that the Maltese people, indeed people from around the globe, conveyed as soon as the news broke.

Malta’s Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Carmelo Abela was among the very first to convey his solidarity, in these very difficult moments. The outpour of support goes to show the immense value that was attributed to the Cathedral along the centuries and across all borders.

The Gargoyles that didn’t do their job

Angie Balzan – Social Media Content Writer

As the Spire of Notre Dame caved in with such graceful sadness backlit by endless glowing flames and plumes of smoke, there was a general feeling of grief and hopelessness in all those watching.

A tragic loss was unfolding right before our very eyes and there was so little anyone could do about it. The heartache and sorrow of watching something so beautiful disappear in just a few minutes is something many of us have encountered in our lives.  That desperate feeling of misery of watching a loved one perish.  The feeling of spectator looking on as one’s morals and values erode with each turn the new world takes. So many instances of watching realities we once knew, crumble and fall into ashes and dust as we watch with teary eyes and mouths gaping wide. The cathedral fire was another on the list.

Notre Dame had Gargoyles and Chimeras whose main purpose was to ward off evil and transport water. Unfortunately, these many grotesque mystical creatures carved in stone could not fight off the inevitable. These beastly creatures with heads of fantastical animals and humans stood solitary and silent as the flames ravaged the building they have guarded for centuries.

And as we stand like Gargoyles and Chimeras in silence and solitude watching the world moving towards its own destruction, I can’t help thinking we can do so much more. Unlike these stone carvings we have the power and will to move and take action. We have the strength to speak out against what we see is being destroyed. We cannot just stand and watch. Let us all take one small step towards righting one wrong.  Be it helping to safeguard the environment, standing up for those without a voice or just plain and decent respect towards the people we interact with daily.

Let’s not be Gargoyles as we watch what makes us human go up in flames. We have the right and duty to act before the world as we know it goes up in smoke. Let the tragic loss of Notre Dame act as the Phoenix in our conscience to help us rise from the ashes into a more splendid version of what we truly are. Because we can.


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