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Paris prepares for its first Christmas outside Notre Dame

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

The cathedral’s famed celebrations will take place at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois as its congregants and choir carry their faith “beyond the walls.”

Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars – a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed.

Yet an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the Paris cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.

As the lights stay dim in the once-invincible 855-year-old landmark, officials are trying hard to focus on the immediate task of keeping burned out Notre Dame’s spirit alive in exile through service, song, and prayer.

“This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass [at Notre Dame],” cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press.

There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Mr. Chauvet noted, “because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere,” referring to the cathedral’s clergy. During World War II, when Paris was under Nazi occupation, “there was no problem.” He said that to his knowledge, it was only closed for Christmas in the period after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into “a temple of reason.”

Christmas-in-exile at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois this year will be a history-making moment.

“We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak … but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us,” Mr. Chauvet said.

Those indicators include a wooden liturgical platform that has been constructed in the Saint-Germain church to resemble Notre Dame’s own. A service will be led at midnight on Dec. 24 by Mr. Chauvet to a crowd of faithful, including many who would normally worship in the cathedral, accompanied by song from some of Notre Dame’s now-itinerant choir.

The cathedral’s iconic Gothic sculpture “The Virgin of Paris,” from which some say Notre Dame owes its name, is also on display in the new annex.

The 14th-century masterpiece, which measures around six feet and depicts Mary and baby Jesus, has come to embody the officials’ message of hope following the fire.

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France’s Wine Industry Pledges to Help Repair Notre-Dame

The families behind brands like Chateau Latour and Moët & Chandon have promised millions after a fire damaged the cathedral on April 15.

Officials in Paris are still assessing the damage of yesterday’s devastating blaze at the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral. But though the cause and full extent of the fire may not yet be known, one thing is already certain: Money is pouring in to repair the 850-year-old structure — including massive donations from two major names in the world of French wine.

The news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that two French billionaires, Francois Pinault and “crosstown rival” Bernard Arnault, have pledged to donate 100 million euros ($124 million) and 200 million euros ($248 million) respectively to help rebuild the iconic cathedral. [ . . . ]

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