Notre-Dame tells the complex story of French identity

"Is Paris burning?" Adolf Hitler, having ordered the levelling of Paris to a "pile of rubble", supposedly kept asking that question in August 1944. Chief among the city's marvels he wished to see in flames was Notre-Dame de Paris.

The mediaeval cathedral, of course, was not burning. Intact, it instead welcomed Charles de Gaulle on Aug 26, when the commander of the Free French Forces and de facto president of France led a victory march from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre-Dame.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Notre-Dame tells the complex story of French identity'. Print Edition | Subscribe