Learning With: ‘Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris’

Learning With: ‘Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris’

Before reading the article:

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, one of the most iconic symbols of beauty and history in Paris, was engulfed in flames on Monday, leading to the collapse of part of its spire.

What do you know about this French landmark? Have you ever visited? Have you seen it referenced in novels, films or history books? What is your reaction to the news?

Watch the one-minute video of the fire above. Then, scroll through photos of the cathedral before and after the fire in the articles: “Pictures of Notre-Dame Before the Fire: A Cathedral That Defined a City” and “Notre-Dame Fire Photos: Despair and Grief Amid Smoke and Flame.”

Next, respond to the following questions:

• What cultural and historical significance does the Notre-Dame have in Paris?

• How have people reacted to the fire that partly destroyed it?

• Why do you think people have reacted in this way?

Now, read the article, “Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris,” and answer the following questions:

1. What damage did the fire do to the Notre-Dame cathedral?

2. The fire broke out the same day President Emmanuel Macron was expected to deliver an important policy speech about the recent “Yellow Vests” demonstrations. The reporters suggest this coincidence is significant. How so?

3. Why is Notre-Dame known as a landmark not only for Paris, but also for the entire world?

4. How did onlookers react to the fire? In your own words, summarize the feelings many seemed to share, and give an example of one from the article.

5. Though the fire has been extinguished, what dangers still remain and why?

6. According to Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, why might the cathedral’s current renovation project have put the structure at fire risk?

7. The authors write that “the fire is likely to be just the latest, if most dramatic, insult to a landmark that has endured decades of neglect and damage.” What do they mean by that?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

In a news analysis piece, “A France in Turmoil Weeps for a Symbol of Paris’s Enduring Identity,” Michael Kimmelman writes about the tragedy:

This fire is not like other recent calamities.

When flames killed dozens trapped in Grenfell Tower in London, it exposed a scandalous lack of oversight and a city of disastrous inequities. When a bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, also taking life, it revealed the consequential greed of privatization and a chronic absence of Italian leadership. When the National Museum of Brazil burned down, also through unconscionable government neglect, it wiped a tangible swath of South American history from the face of the earth, incinerating anthropological records of lost civilizations.

Notre-Dame, where no one died, represents a different kind of catastrophe, no less traumatic but more to do with beauty and spirit and symbolism.

Visited by some 13 million people a year, the cathedral, established during the 12th century, is the biggest architectural attraction in Paris. It is an emblem of the old city — the embodiment of the Paris of stone and faith — just as the Eiffel Tower exemplifies the Paris of modernity, joie de vivre and change.

Is there a landmark in your town, region or country that holds symbolic weight?

If so, what is it and what makes it so special? What historical and cultural significance does it have? What does it represent for you and your community? How do you think people would react if it were destroyed?