By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor
One year ago this week, it seemed like the fire that struck at the heart of Paris was one of the worst things that could happen to the City of Lights.
Now, the solitude in the usually vibrant area around half-ruined Notre Dame Cathedral is just another metaphor of how quiet things have become here. Parisians are on lockdown from COVID-19, which has infected more than 133,000 people and killed more than 14,000 in France. The emergency has put on hold the efforts to stabilize the roofless cathedral, which has a 50-50 chance of further collapse.
For an eye on what a restored or reimagined Notre Dame could be, Nat Geo’s Kristin Romey looks at another once-devastated cathedral in Cologne, Germany (below), and shows how citizens banded together to restore it. She also looks at the resilient Good Friday service by Michel Aupetit, the Archbishop of Paris, at a makeshift altar in Paris’s wrecked shrine, calling for renewal not only of a building, but of a people.
“Today,” Aupetit said, “we are in this half-collapsed cathedral to say that life is still here.”
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Left: An 18th-century illustration shows a crumbling Cologne Cathedral before its restoration in the 19th century. Right: Two US soldiers view the Cologne Cathedral from beneath an arch of the city's ruined Hohenzollern Bridge on April 16, 1945.
Instagram photo of the day
Vertigo, anyone? The view of the spiral staircase inside the Lyngvig Lighthouse in Denmark can make you a little dizzy, acknowledges photographer Krista Rossow. This lighthouse along the North Sea affords amazing views over rolling sand dunes near the town of Hvide Sande, Rossow says. To get to the top, buy a ticket, climb the spiral staircase, and clamber out a tiny door onto the top landing.
Related: 31 Nat Geo photos that take you back through history
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Today in a minute
Coronavirus update: “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg said that three decades ago. So why weren't we ready? That's what author Robin Marantz Henig explores for Nat Geo. She writes that we almost, in the 1990s, learned the lessons of preparation and surveillance to halt pandemics such as the coronavirus. “Maybe,” she concludes, “we’ll learn them for real this time.”
On lockdown: Gorilla tourism in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been suspended as fears grow that the endangered animals might contract the coronavirus from a human. No cases involving gorillas had been reported, but they are vulnerable, says Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, chief veterinary officer for Gorilla Doctors, which provides vet care to those gorillas. “Because mountain gorillas are susceptible to human pathogens, we know that they can develop respiratory illness," Gilardi told the BBC.
Without history, on the front lines: They have just become doctors. Their first assignment: treating patients with COVID-19. “Right now, it's sort of an ‘all hands on deck’ situation, where we can't be too far from the hospital at any time,” Emma Rogers tells Nat Geo’s Nsikan Akpan. And it’s going to get worse at her Philadelphia hospital: They expect a surge in the next two weeks.
It was 50 years ago Friday ... when Paul McCartney put out a press release and shocked the world by announcing the Beatles were done, at least for now. Also shocked: bandmates John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, The Conversation reports. Lennon was enraged that he didn’t quit first—and that McCartney was able to use the announcement to promote a solo album, music critic Tim Riley says.
The big takeaway
Once ‘the city of 1001 churches’: Vegetation grows from the inside of the onetime cathedral of Ani, a longtime Armenian community inside modern-day Turkey. The dome of the 1,000-year-old edifice was destroyed by an earthquake in 1319. That image epitomizes a city in ruins, a onetime early adopter of Christianity, which once flourished along trade routes writes Antonio Ratti for Nat Geo’s History magazine. The city was being excavated and rediscovered until 1917, when many of the ethnic Armenians in the region were killed in what historians call a genocide. Above, the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Ani, built in 1215.
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In a few words
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The last glimpse
Next year in person: Tampa Bay photographer Eve Edelheit had been covering the coronavirus story and didn't want to risk infecting her mom at Passover dinner last week. So Edelheit took pictures through a window of her mom (above), preparing matzo ball soup before the seder. The gathering is an annual coming-together for families, but, like Easter, had to be celebrated apart this year. That didn't stop families who improvised with technology to stay together remotely, Nat Geo's Nina Strochlic reports.
Related: Faith leaders preached to empty pews this Easter