People need symbols, and the world needs culture, beauty and art. Notre Dame was and is a symbol of all such things – and an important symbol of continuity and connection.
The global response shows how built heritage can transcend the specific and become a potent symbol for society at large.
Back in 1999, the then-French culture minister, Catherine Trautmann, sought to make this point in an address to an international conference on Jewish heritage in Europe held in Paris and sponsored by the French government.
“Jewish heritage in France is also the heritage of all the French people, just as the cathedrals of France also belong to France’s Jews,” she said.
Her statement was a noteworthy expression of a new way of thinking that has still not fully permeated society – namely that Jewish built heritage is part and parcel of European heritage, not distinct from it.