Filipinos who have been to Paris are mourning the devastating damage to the Notre-Dame cathedral after it was gutted by a huge fire in the early evening of April 15th.
One of them is Filipina event director Loyva Fernandez. She still vividly remembers her time in Paris last March 2018. She immediately went to the cathedral after having gone to the Eiffel Tower.
Now, Fernandez joins all of France in grief after fire tragically struck the 800-year-old cathedral that has long been a symbol of French culture, history, and religious faith.
Fernandez remembers that when she arrived at the cathedral in 2018, a mass was being celebrated. She saw the famous Pieta sculpture by Nicolas Coustou which was completed in 1723, ten years before Coustou’s death. The sculpture overlooks the main altar of the cathedral, along with the huge cross.
The site of Pieta at the Notre-Dame’s main altar was too awesome for words. Fernandez was close to tears.
“It was like a dream sequence,” she gushed, adding that she would never forget that moment, punctuated and sanctified by the priest blessing the altar with incense.
Fernandez shared her thoughts on the cathedral, saying that the facade was impressive, its carvings so intricate and beautiful.
But it was the inside that took her breath away, the feeling of being there so surreal as before; her visit to Paris, particularly Notre-Dame, was a dream come true.
When news of the Notre Dame fire reached her, Fernandez could not believe it. At first, she was doubtful–but her hopes went up in smoke when she saw images of the fire on Facebook, and saw videos of the fire in the news.
Fernandez also worries for the church and the people of Paris:
“Grabe, nanghihinayang ako, firstly. Pero mas strong yung feeling na walang pupuntahan mga Parisian catholics for Holy Week kasi tradition na nila ‘pag Black Friday to venerate the Crown of Thorns.”
(I feel a great loss, firstly. But my stronger feeling is for the Parisian Catholics. They have a Black Friday tradition where the venerate the Crown of Thorns.)
Reports have come in that the Crown of Thorns, a venerated relic said to have been that of Jesus during his crucifixion, was saved from the fire — along with several other artworks and relics.
Notre-Dame’s construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345. Since then it has been modified through the ages. It witnessed centuries of history and even survived both World War I and II. French President Emmanuel Macron has already promised that France will rebuild Notre-Dame.