Prelims level : Art & Culture Mains level : GS-I Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
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Why in News?

  • The world needs to look differently at its historical memory and the cultural heritage which embodies it


  • The large fire that broke out in Paris on Monday and which consumed a part of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, is a grim reminder that centuries of heritage can be destroyed in minutes.
  • of course, the French people can rebuild the physical structure
  • and, in this enterprise, they will be certainly supported by the vast wealth of Europe, America and others, made possible by centuries of industrialisation and capital accumulation. But rebuilding the Notre-Dame de Paris does not mean that we can necessarily renew its original spirit — of blocks of sandstones which narrate their own geological and social history. Undoubtedly, for over 800 years, the cathedral has been the driving force behind the eternal return of Paris as the ‘Heart of the World’.

Repository of history

  • As a powerful spiritual symbol of Christian faith, it counts many treasures, such as the crown of thorns, which are believed to have been placed on Jesus Christ’s head.
  • Joan of Arc was beatified in the cathedral in 1909, after her execution for heresy in 1431. And, for more than three centuries, Notre-Dame has stood as a symbol of political change in France. During the French Revolution, its treasures were plundered. However, as seen in the famous painting of Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France at Notre-Dame in 1804. Other famous political ceremonies of the 20th and 21st centuries in France, such as the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944, the farewell to Charles de Gaulle in 1970, and a requiem mass in tribute to François Mitterrand in 1996, took place in the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
  • Last but not least, for nearly nine centuries, Notre-Dame has been at the centre of French and world literature

Spirit of freedom

  • Without the stones of Notre-Dame, these aesthetic compasses, we would never be able to take our responsibilities in the world. For centuries, humanity has witnessed the destruction of its historical memory, and each time a new door to our common fate is closed forever.
  • We all believe that this should not happen anymore. But it does happen, and we cannot reconcile ourselves with it. Heritage, therefore, expresses a joy of witnessing the past despite the sadness of historical destruction. It is this joy of witnessing the past that becomes an awareness of our landscape of memory. This awareness is the strongest evidence of the victory of peaceful coexistence between the past and the present.
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