On the evening of Sunday 2 September 1666, a fire broke out in a bakery in Pudding Lane in the City of London. It spread rapidly, devouring thousands of homes, numerous inns and churches and also the building that for many was the heart of London, St Paul’s Cathedral. The fire raged for days and the consequences were dramatic: people dispossessed and the shape and fabric of the old medieval city lost.
Famously this is where Sir Christopher Wren enters as the architect for a phoenix city, creating dozens of new churches and the current St Paul’s Cathedral which, ever since, has stood as an emblem of rebirth, endurance and Britishness (especially when it somehow escaped the German bombing raids of the Second World War – despite a near hit).
Today as Parisians look at the ashen remains of Notre Dame it is worth remembering London, and St Paul’s, and knowing that cathedrals, cities and people have an extraordinary ability to fight back, to rebuild. Losses are counted. Emotions vented. But great cities are fighters, and in years to come Notre Dame will be the heart of the French capital again.