Half-French Portsmouth pupil’s ‘personal loss’ at Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Portsmouth Grammar School pupil Seb Filho, 16, spent four years growing up in France – and his French father had sung at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Here Seb gives his view on the fire.

Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 6:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 6:32 pm
Seb Filho grew up in France for four years and his father sang at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Picture: Habibur Rahman

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the fire that engulfed Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral was extinguished, but the shock and sadness created by the catastrophe remain prevalent over France, Europe and the world. I, being half-french, would like to raise a few thoughts.

Having lived in France for four years of my childhood until 2012 when I moved to Portsmouth, I am deeply saddened by the colossal destruction of much of the iconic monument.

Notre Dame is not merely a cathedral, it is often considered the centre of religion and mourning in France. It is possibly the country’s most iconic building: an emblem of Paris, an emblem of France.

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Seb Filho grew up in France for four years and his father sang at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The fire was immense, ripping down the building’s iconic spire and great walls starting as it did at 6.20pm on Monday and continuing to the early hours of the next day.

Thankfully, however, most of it will be rebuilt, it could indeed have been worse and vast sums have been pledged by billionaires and large companies.

President Emmanuel Macron also pledged to restore the building and summarised the significance of the event perfectly.

The building, he says, is our ‘history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives’.

I have spent quite a few hours in Notre Dame, in awe of the beautiful luminous windows and appreciating the grandeur of its architecture.

Before moving to England, my French father used to sing in the choir at the cathedral for much of his childhood. I feel, therefore, a true personal sense of loss.

In times of constant political divisions and partisan nationalism, it is truly heart-warming to witness authentic expressions of sympathy, solidarity and shared sorrow from the UK and the rest of the world. Deeply, it seems, there is more that unites than divide us.