I and many, many people were rocked this week by the fire that broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral Monday night. I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled series of posts on recent short stories to share how Notre Dame Cathedral has figured in my writing, which points in many ways to my feelings about the cathedral. A beautiful architectural treasure, it’s also a touchpoint with history. I visited the cathedral in 2012 and 2016, and characters in my Phantom trilogy visited in 1881. The ability to visit the same place that was standing centuries ago is breathtaking.
More than that, Notre Dame is a constant. I’m so relieved that the most recent news suggests Monday’s fire marks a new chapter in Notre Dame’s long but continuing story. For a few hours, it looked like it could be the end of the story, and I found it impossible to imagine a world without Notre Dame Cathedral by the Seine.
Which is exactly how it appears in my Phantom trilogy as well–Meg in particular views it as a reliable source of constancy. Outside of the Opera Garnier (which is the setting for probably 90% of the trilogy), Notre Dame is the number one setting, woven into some of the most meaningful scenes, and a symbol of stability in an unstable world. Some passages were seeming painfully ironic on Monday–now, perhaps, they’re just a little more poignant?
Here are a few Notre Dame passages from my novels.
In Book One, Meg believes she may have to leave Paris soon, and looks for some comfort in the face of those worries.
I kept walking forward because it was the easiest direction, gazing into the distance without paying attention to the view. I had been staring at Notre Dame’s towers for at least a block before I properly realized it.
I could go there. I didn’t know anywhere more serene, stable and unmoving than Notre Dame Cathedral. Where better to go when my world had fallen out of balance? And it couldn’t be anything worse than the last visit for now. Beignets and booksellers’ stalls were fleeting, the Opera Garnier might close its doors to me, but I could always go back to Notre Dame. Maybe not soon, not if we moved away, but Notre Dame would never be gone. I’d be back someday.