In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Christopher Wren found a stone with the word ‘Resurgam’ – I shall rise again – in the ashes of St Paul’s cathedral. That stone now sits above the doorway of the building he devoted his life to creating.
The loss of a great building or a great work of art touches us because it is not just an object. It is a story told not just to us but by us as well, and by everyone who has lived through it. Since the first caveman dipped his hand in a puddle of ochre and left his print on a cave wall, there has been a human need for permanence, and art and beauty. A human need to say I was here, and I shall be here after I am gone, part of something greater – part of the tale of humanity.
At Newsthump we’re aware of the power of stories – you should see our mailbox when we challenge one that people hold dear – and Notre Dame is not just a cathedral or just a building. It is a story, a hymn in stone sung by countless millions through the ages. A focus of ideas and of identity. A symbol of a way of being and of identity which stood over its home city and made its people feel part of one whole, no matter who they were.
But it does not pay to underestimate the French. When Napoleon decided they would be a warlike people, it took the combined might of the three greatest empires on Earth to stop them. So they became a more peaceful, trading people, and emerged as one of the largest economies on Earth despite everyone only working two days a week and taking a nap in the middle of that.
For that reason, Resurgam is as true for Notre Dame as it was Saint Pauls. The French will ensure it will rise again. The catastrophe will become with time part of a tapestry, and the children of the future will walk through our now as part of their history and their story.