Sunday 17 March 2024

Notre Dame - Then & Now


Then: C19th chimera gracing our kitchen wall since, well, forever

In the way of such things, we were only home a few days from our journey to the City of Lights and a stroll past a recovering famous cathedral, when the first of this year's concert subscriptions popped up, appropriately entitled, Notre Dame. Here we were taken on another journey by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir through a choice Baroque selection of the vast quantity of music composed for and performed through the ages within this gothic masterpiece. 

Then, again: Your Correspondent in 2006, 
the last time both Paris & Our Lady was visited

From a song by Hildegard von Bingen to a commissioned work by Australian Hugh Ronzani via court songs and chansons, polyphonic chants and extracts from opéra-ballets and whatnot, by the likes of Charles Tessier, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marin Marais* and Jean Baptiste Lully and plenty more besides, the concert was interwoven with a two-person play about a young engineering graduate who joins the restoration team in Paris to work on the cathedral, is guided through the edifice by the spirit of Victor Hugo and is there at the scene of the 2019 Great Conflagration.

Now: The cathedral in 2024

Projected old film footage and images of the cathedral, then and now, including the fire itself, formed a backdrop of  "cathedral windows", making the whole concert a quite moving experience. Especially as we'd spent time walking around Notre Dame only those few days earlier taking in the progress of this latest restoration to the calamitous and disastrous result of the previous works, the play's subject.

Coming along nicely

Notre Dame is as busy as ever with tourists, there to bear witness to the massive project, and there's even stadium seating in the forecourt, presumably for visitors to sit and watch the reconstruction at leisure. We felt like we had a glimpse into our shared European cultural history, linking hands with the generations before us who would mostly all have lived with or seen a work-in-progress of this kind, for churches and cathedrals and castles and other engineering landmarks took generations to build and seemed constantly to be burned down and rebuilt, only to be burned down and rebuilt yet again.

But a long way to go

Even in a young city like Sydney, in my own lifetime I got to see the finishing spires finally installed on St. Mary's Cathedral, two hundred years after the first foundation stone was laid. Civil engineering's mainstays of roads, bridges, sewage systems and the like might be built in a single generation, but beauteous cultural landmarks seem to have to take forever if they are to last forever. 

Florist nearby with the late winter offerings

Speaking of beauteous, how lovely are these bunches of wattle seen outside this Parisian florist? We took a late afternoon stroll around Île Saint-Louis after our Notre Dame inspection and the cold weather necessitated a hunt for something warming. Which we duly found and can highly recommend!

Also nearby, for a restorative coffee 
and pint or so of hot chocolate :)

And the best Crème Brûlée ever!

* Fun fact: We stayed in the Marais district this visit!

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Bats In The Belfry