Speechless and desperately sad in front of Notre Dame in flames. This cathedral is the jewel of gothic architecture the most beautiful in France with its stunning stained glass windows and Rosaces, its world renowned organ, its treasures, a spiritual haven for Christians round the world. Words cannot express the stupor and horror watching the flames. While we await the reconstruction works and the investigations opened by the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office, while we wait to find out exactly what has been destroyed inside as well, here’s a poem written several years ago celebrating its physical and spritual beauty which has helped millions of believers and non-believers over the centuries. And myself.
Lacelike in majesty, a mason’s tenderness
in Lutetian limestone, crenellations of intricacy
shadows of intimacy unfurl along buttresses
foundations anchored in generations.
Solid you stand pure white in the sun
while your bells proclaim your Son’s will be done.
Monumental, your place by the Seine,
one thousand years and more you reign.
Kings, queens and paupers line your doors
some headless, some crumbling, the weather-worn flaws
and inside your incense soothes troubled minds
myrrh curling up the clustered columns
soaring to arches searching for light
as we do when we contemplate the prisms
the polychrome spheres of stained-glass lives
illuminating saints, and sinners redeemed.
Rainbow of souls reflected on stone
on lintels and plinths, unlived dreams
wrapped round pillars, resting on tombs
to swathe the dead and lighten those souls
unable to rest while the bell tolls.
The sun casts its fury-of-living through colour
on the life of Christ, the love and betrayal
death, resurrection, a life recovered
portrayed in the windows, on walls and in faces
and people stroll past from faith to unfaith
to faith recast, remembering all the
unsafe moments, discovering the
life of Christ carved in the apse
Peter stunned at the net-full of fish
Thomas turning his head in distrust,
past the confessional, silver with dust
past the candles, some lit and others waiting
while we hesitate