Yesterday, the world watched in despair as one of its most recognizable historic landmarks burned.

The City of Lights was illuminated in the worst way when the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris caught fire. We can find relief in the fact that only minor injuries were sustained by the police and firemen during the hours-long fight to contain the flames. Precious artifacts were saved and President Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral.

"Notre-Dame has been the gathering point for all kinds of civil and religious ceremonies. It has seen Paris and the French people through the best and worst of times. Most recently, after the Paris attacks, it was a place to seek relief."

Notre-Dame is a National Monument, both a cultural and religious symbol for the whole world, and this loss is massive. Whatever their religious identification, people around the world know Notre-Dame as a major, iconic part of French identity. In fact, it was even defended by Victor Hugo in the 19th century when authorities thought it was an eyesore that should be destroyed. Visitors of the 850-year-old cathedral couldn’t help but feel they were in the presence of beauty, history, and something bigger than us that has resisted the test of time.

Notre-Dame has been the gathering point for all kinds of civil and religious ceremonies. It has seen Paris and the French people through the best and worst of times. Most recently, after the Paris attacks, it was a place to seek relief.

That this tragedy happened during Holy Week, the most important week on the Catholic calendar, adds to the sadness of many Parisians, who worship there for Easter Sunday.

Like all tragedies of this magnitude, watching something that loomed so large succumb to fire is absolutely devastating and hurts us to the core.

An international appeal to raise funds to rebuild is underway and, already, corporate leaders around the world have pledged hundreds of millions to restore the cathedral. Last fall, the French Library presented an event with the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris to raise awareness about the cathedral’s much-needed renovations. In light of this recent tragedy, we are holding a second fundraiser to benefit the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris on Tuesday, April 23 at 7:00 PM. Stay tuned to our Events Calendar for more information.

If you cannot attend or want to donate today, please visit:

The French history of endurance is well known. Together, we can rebuild our grande dame.

Barbara Bouquegneau

President and Executive Director

Barbara has worked at the French Library for more than 20 years. Barbara has represented the Center and Alliance Française of Boston throughout the years and has most recently been appointed vice-president of the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA. She is committed to pursuing the extraordinary mission of the French Library and believes that the Francophone world is worth exploring in all its different cultures.

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