One of the first reactions after the destruction by the flames of any monument of special symbology - cultural, artistic, religious - is to reconstruct it as it was, "stone by stone". With this gesture of pride many times you want to atone for sins and responsibilities.
The last debate on this same issue was the one that occurred after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. In order to respond to the insult of jihadism, the same skyscrapers had to be raised again, just as their architect, Minoru Yamasaki, conceived them. After the impact of that huge blow, it was understood that it did not make sense to build something exactly the same, especially if the original architect was already dead and the construction systems had advanced enough to make better buildings and less expensive to maintain. The question that was on the table was that, deep down, and for more symbolic value than it had for New Yorkers, a skyscraper was not exactly the same as a construction eight hundred years ago, as is the case of Notre Dame. The contemporary world maintains a very respectful - and fearful - relationship with the past, although very impractical. Finally the project of Daniel Libeskind, already completed, was launched. There was a first reaction: it is not the same. And probably can not be.
In Spain, the most intense debate occurred when a fire -produced by a spark- destroyed in minutes the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. That same day, on January 31, 1994 -other Monday arsonist-, at the entrance of the opera coliseum, what was called the "bonum pact" was signed. On the sheet of a car, the political leaders of the city were conspired to raise the theater, "stone by stone". This was done and, of course, there were many - especially the sector of the so-called "owners", who were not generous in their contributions - who wanted to rebuild it as it was. Guilt and expiation. But that was impossible, even undesirable. First, because The Lyceum had some old infrastructures unfit for a first class lyric center (The prop was entered through the doorway of an adjoining building). Secondly, many of the decorative aspects were made by artisans whose trades no longer exist. Put back those gas lamps? On this question there is an anecdote about the absurdity of extreme conservatism. When the theater was electrified, the same lamps were used, but the tulips were inverted downwards - the flames shoot up - which prevented the correct visibility from many boxes. During the fire at the Lyceum, a critic who would later occupy high responsibilities in the theater said privately: "There is no harm that does not come well". Indeed, the new Liceo is not like the old one, fortunately.
France will rebuild Notre Dame. Of that there is no doubt. But it will not be exactly the same, and that difference will form small details and, above all, the loss of a shared spirituality. Will the destroyed rosette be the same? It can be because, although no longer made stained glass, nothing is impossible with applications such as 3D ... The question is whether its reconstruction should be done in dialogue with the art of the Middle Ages. Victor Hugo wrote that being "as tireless in defending our historic buildings as our iconoclasts of schools and academies have been quick to attack them." And he added in a note to the 1832 edition of "Our Lady of Paris": "It is something that gives a grimace, to see in what hands the architecture of the Middle Ages has fallen and in what way those who nowadays presume of architects treat the ruins of that great art ".
When Notre Dame rises full, with its needle to the sky, many will say: "It is not the same". But we must understand that the first thing that changes, before the stones, are the people and their relationship with the sacred.