As the much-awaited restoration work inside the cathedral of Notre Dame has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the fence surrounding the construction site was brightened up by an exhibition of childrens’ drawings representing the beloved Parisian cathedral.
Since June 16, 52 colorful drawings have been adorning the construction site fence of the cathedral devastated by a fire in April 2019, and whose square has reopened to public on May 31.
While calling children all around the world to “draw [him] Notre Dame, the church [they] know or the church [they] imagine,” on Oct. 15, 2019, Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit told them that “our reflection concerns you because tomorrow, you will be the young people and adults coming to a restored Notre Dame of Paris, whose doors will be wide open for you”.
In about six months, the diocese of Paris received around 6,000 drawings from children aged between 4 and 16, coming from all around France and other countries including the U.S., England, Poland and Germany.
This appeal — which sounds like a clear reference to the emblematic passage in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous novel The Little Prince (1943), where the little prince asks the pilot to draw him a sheep — has revealed the beauty of children’s spirituality, marked both by a deep rooting and genuineness.
The faithfulness to the medieval roots of the cathedral that characterizes most of the works, as well as the frequent representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Virgin Mary protecting the cathedral in her blue mantle, or the image of a miraculous reparation of the spire that was completely destroyed in the fire, are all manifestations of the impact that this tragedy had on children’s minds worldwide, and the hope that they still carry within themselves.
“All of [these children] express, through these drawings and the notes that accompany them, their vibrant emotion in the face of the blaze that struck Notre Dame of Paris and their attachment to the cathedral,” the diocese wrote in a communique, adding that the drawings were so beautiful and the selection so difficult that Archbishop Aupetit decided to organize a side exhibition in the Large Nave of the Collège of Bernardins with other 109 drawings that can be seen until July 4.
This cultural event was organized in collaboration with the public foundation set up to preserve and restore Notre Dame and sponsored by outdoor advertising company JCDecaux.
While inaugurating the exhibition in Notre Dame square, June 16, Archbishop Aupetit said that the reconstruction work, whose first consolidation steps were suspended during the COVID-19 epidemic, will probably officially start in January 2021.