Hope in the Ashes of Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Will this tragedy birth a revival in the lost trades?

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Notre Dame Cathedral
Getfunky Paris [CC BY 2.0 (]

This morning as I used my phone for a torch in the early hours, I saw a text from my daughter who lives in Europe – with the shocking news about Notre Dame.

Since Paris has been her favourite city since she was a small child, she was obviously saddened. She had the privilege of experiencing history through an inspiring teacher who brought places like Notre Dame alive for her – I remember her project on the cathedral was a play she wrote and had a group of kids act out. The characters were personified as the architectural features and had to explain their purpose to the master builder.

Detail – door carving Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

After considering the utter devastation of a building steeped in so much history, thinking about the exquisite detail and irreplaceable artworks that were lost, I began to wonder what good could come out of the tragedy.

The skills to rebuild a gothic masterpiece are all but lost in the 21st century. But Notre Dame is extremely famous and Parisians are fiercely loyal. So perhaps they will rally and repair the damage. And in the process, those few people who still have the knowledge to do the work might train up others to carry on the traditional crafts. Once there are more skilled workers, they can then pass their knowledge onto others and restore more historic buildings around Europe.

I’m fascinated with traditional crafts and had a chance in 2017 to visit the Lost Trades Fair at Toowoomba. There were craftworkers from all over Australia demonstrating their skills. Most of them were older men, although there were a few women and the highlight of the event was meeting Tim and Cooper the fly fishing experts! These two young boys know everything you ever wanted to know (and so much more) about how to make fishing flies and they were very enthusiastic at explaining it to the crowds.

It was sad to see that some trades are almost extinct with only one or two older people who still have the skills to do them and no-one to pass them onto.

So let’s hope these ancient crafts live on and that somehow out of the tragedy in Paris that something good is born.

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