Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars — a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed.
Yet an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the Paris cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.
As the lights stay dim in the once-invincible 855-year-old landmark, officials are trying hard to focus on the immediate task of keeping burned out Notre Dame ’s spirit alive in exile through service, song and prayer.
It has decamped its rector, famed statue, liturgy and Christmas celebrations to a new temporary home pending the restoration works, just under a mile away, at another Gothic church in Paris called Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.
And there it will remain, as works slowly progress to rebuild the cathedral after the April 15 fire destroyed its lead roof and spire and was moments away from engulfing its two stone towers.
“This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass (at Notre Dame),” cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press.
There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Chauvet noted, “because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere,” referring to the cathedral’s clergy. During World War II, when Paris was under Nazi occupation, “there was no problem.” He said that to his knowledge, it was only closed for Christmas in the period after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into “a temple of reason.”
Read more at Associated Press