Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Part of our identity as Europeans crumbles with the spire of Notre Dame

It is not just the spire of Notre Dame that collapses under the flames. With her also a part of our identity as Europeans crumbles, and we made of that glorious cathedral one of the symbols of our civilization. Of that common heritage of values, feelings and emotions that is stirred up within us in the most dramatic moments. As an arrhythmia of the heart that cannot be controlled as a conditioned reflex of the soul.

Believers and non-believers, eurosceptics and Europeanists, whatever our nationality and political party, that burning church puts everyone in agreement. This also explains the solidarity that has flared up with the same rush of flames from all over the world. And set the social media on fire. Particularly touching is the testimony of the La Fenice theater in Venice, twice destroyed by flames and twice resurrected, which tweeted “We were devastated by fire and each time we were reborn. It will also happen to you, do not be afraid, friends! ".

In reality, with its eight centuries of life, said the great transalpian historian Jules Michelet, Notre Dame is itself a history book. There the Parisians watched over King Louis the Holy. There, in 1302, Philip the Fair inaugurated the first States-General of the Kingdom of France, where Henry IV married Margerita di Valois in 1572. It is always under those majestic vaults that Pope Pius VII crowned Napoleon I Emperor of France in 1804. And below those vertiginous Gothic ogives that a tearful ocean of people sang the Te Deum at the end of the First and Second World Wars. All events that have built the Europe of now.

If history can divide at different times, monuments unite instead, because they are stratified history, decanted, filtered, accumulated and transformed into a symbol that belongs to everyone. In memory that speaks to us of a past now pacified. Not by chance in the nineteenth century to guide the reconstruction of the Cathedral devastated by the fury of the Revolution, it was Victor Hugo who inflamed souls with his novel Notre Dame de Paris and promoted a popular petition for that sacred place to return to its splendor.

And not only the history of the great events has passed in front of that imposing cathedral, with that familiar silhouette that alternates the Olympic calm of the saints that stand out on the façade with the demonic grin of chimeras that look sideways. Because for over a century the history of all of us has been built on that churchyard. Tourists, boyfriends, devotees, patriots, lovers of beauty, we all told each other, photographed or selfeggiati, or even imagined in front of that facade to monumentalize our life a little. To bring it into the majestic and romantic memory of douce France.


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Mario Calabresi
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