Concert to honour the legacy of the Notre-Dame cathedral: we will rebuild.
UN Chamber Music Society
Concert to honour the legacy of the Notre-Dame cathedral
Statement by Ms. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
on behalf of Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
9 May 2019
Dear friends of the United Nations and from the foreign Missions,
Dear Brenda Vongova, and dear members of the UN Chamber Music Society,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am both deeply moved and very honoured to be here tonight, and to deliver remarks on behalf of Ambassador François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations. He sends his warmest regards and his deepest regrets not to be here with us tonight.
To see you gathered here to celebrate Notre-Dame de Paris touches all French hearts. It is truly uplifting. It illustrates that Notre-Dame is far more than an 850 year-old French treasure, that it has meaning beyond our borders. In today’s edition of the New York Times, the chief of the Paris bureau of the paper wrote that "Parisian grief was universal and ecumenical". Your presence today is testimony to that.
We were all shocked to see the cathedral in flames and its spire collapsing on April 15th. Many of us cried when the news hit; it was so sudden. Accounts of that night are full of silent weeping. 1000 years burning in one night aches and it will continue to haunt us. There are of course many layers to our collective and personal grief. Notre-Dame is an astonishing Gothic masterpiece. It is a magnificent house of worship, with special significance for Catholics and the frame of historical relics. It is the heart of Paris and the epicentre of France, the origin of all its roads. It is also a special witness of France’s History, of major moments – happy or unfortunate, and the place where the French nation gathered on particular occasions: end of wars, funerals of national figures. It is a part of our cultural heritage, and the main character of Victor Hugo’s famous novel. As the romantic author would put it, we can say that Notre-Dame is an exceptional book of stones that tells the universal story of mankind, an ultimate summary and summation of human intelligence and genius throughout history.
That is why we were so heartbroken to see a part of us turn to ashes. There was a moment of fear and loss, an unescapable sense of our common vulnerability.
But beyond, we have been struck by the outpouring of friendship and solidarity that we have been receiving. We have received countless letters, flowers and donations. We have been particularly touched by the words of our friends at the United Nations, especially by those of the Secretary-General, of the President of the General Assembly and of the Director-General of the UNESCO. We understood with your messages that Notre-Dame is more than a part of French identity, but it is a part of our common world heritage. It belongs to the category of special places across the world that embody the depths of history and testify to humanity’s highest aspiration and achievements.
And in the aftermaths of the fire, we have seen hope, thanks to your support. President Macron said it the very night of the fire: We will rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris. We lost an irreplaceable treasure with the roof of the cathedral, known as “the forest”, dating back from the Middle Ages. But the structure, even if wounded, survived. The cathedral has suffered many disasters in its history, but it always rose from them.
We will rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris. And we will do it collectively, thanks to your support. So, on behalf of the French government, the French Mission to the United Nations, let me express our gratitude to you and say a simple word: merci.
Your solidarity gives me confidence that we will continue to work hand in hand not just to rebuild Notre-Dame, but to continue building on the values and ideals of the United Nations.
Tonight, to recapture the timeless atmosphere of the cathedral, we will have the pleasure of listening to the UN Chamber Music Society, under the direction of Brenda Vongova, whom I would like to thank warmly, as well as all the musicians who will play tonight. They will interpret a selection of pieces that are inherently linked to the rich musical history of Notre-Dame de Paris, from the composers of the 12th century Notre Dame School of polyphony, to the more recent Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
As Victor Hugo emphasized, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.”
Thank you for your generosity, your friendship, and your support. Have a good evening.