Notre-Dame Cathedral – 3 years later

Notre-Dame cathedral

It’s hard to believe that just 3 years ago, the whole world was watching the news from the Notre-Dame Cathedral in horror. In the middle of my second hour class on April 15, my phone started blowing up with text messages Everyone was saying the same thing – “have you seen the news? Notre-Dame is on fire!” I had the news on the rest of the day and I spoke to my students as we watched the awful fire burn.

The next morning I woke up – as I am sure most French teachers did – wondering what I was going to see when I turned on the news. Would the cathedral still be standing? Would it be damaged beyond repair? Would this change the way I teach about Paris, its history and its monuments?

I was grateful to have had the chance to see this beautiful cathedral before the fire – and to have been able to share it with so many students, whether through telling them about in in class or taking them there or a trip. I’m also grateful that I have been able to share the cathedral with my own children, as I was there with my daughter Marie in 2015 and with my son Adam and daughter Grace in 2018.

Miraculously, the cathedral was still standing on April 16, 2019 but the reality of the catastrophe was starting to set in. The spire was gone, but the building itself was still intact. Most of the relics and works of art had been rescued, and nobody had been killed. It was obvious that the restoration of the cathedral was going to take a while, though. President Macron soon announced an ambitious project – to rebuild the cathedral in time to reopen it to visitors for the 2024 Paris Olympic games. I’m not sure where they are at this point in their repairs, but it’s been interesting to watch the process.

Il faut sauver Notre-Dame!

I immediately began to think about how to share the events with my students – and with other students who are learning about Notre-Dame Cathedral in their French classes. I developed an escape game about the Cathedral with the goal of both sharing the monument with students as well as raising money for the rebuilding efforts. I am happy to say that I was able to raise funds for the project and someday I hope to see the results of my donation when I visit the cathedral again!

Notre-Dame Cathedral: the mysterious sarcophagus

While excavating the cathedral, a mysterious sarcophagus was found – lined with lead and unmarked, It was found 65 feet underground, surrounded by the pipes of a more recent heating system. Archaeologists plan to open the sarcophagus to see who is buried in it. While I am very interested to find out what we can learn from the remains, part of me is saying “Don’t open it! Haven’t you seen all of the movies? This is a BAD idea!”

But of course, scientists don’t go by the script of a silly horror movie and they will be opening it. They have already taken a little peek with an endoscopic camera, so we know that there is a skeleton in the container. As the other things found around the tomb date from the 14th century, it is thought that these will be the remains of someone from that era.

Are you teaching about Notre-Dame Cathedral?

If you are teaching your students about this beautiful cathedral, maybe you are looking for some ideas for lesson plans. I have a few things for you – suitable for beginners to advanced, or even for those who don’t speak any French at all! The Comprehensible Input lesson about Notre-Dame is for beginning students and includes simple language with lots of repetition. The reading for beginning and intermediate learners discusses the architecture and history of the cathedral. And the digital escape game Il faut Sauver Notre-Dame will allow your students to learn about the cathedral through a fun game – in both English AND French.

Notre-Dame Cathedral - 3 years later
Notre-Dame Cathedral - 3 years later
Notre-Dame Cathedral - 3 years later

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