Oh my heart.
I wrote about the hold that cathedral has over me, in Goddess:
You may think me sacrilegious, even corrupt. Well, well. Time will tell. Not long now. But that cathedral, that holy place, that is where my soul belongs.
There was a time – one moment – when just the sight of it stopped me from throwing myself in the river. If the city was my stage, the cathedral is my mother – or, at least, the only one I’ve known. Even now, if I could, I’d crawl back there, into its dark corners, like a whipped dog – it beckons me, hides and comforts me in its enormity, its stained-glass glory, its candles and statues.
For a part of me is pure. You must believe that.
A part of me is just like Jeanne, Maid of Orléans. She is my saint, my own icon, she of the sure arm and the pure heart. I’ve done nothing so worthy with my life – I haven’t saved France or fought in battles or led the people to hopefulness. But there are the visions. She whispers to me. Yes, she does. I become her, and she enters my heart, this fragile heart. I carry her likeness around my throat, always. It was my mother’s. See? Don’t tell the Abbess. It’s all I have of my mother. Whoever she was. One of the few truly precious things, now, that I possess.
Here’s Jeanne, her hair about her fine face – look at the determination in those eyes – the sword raised high. I pray to her memory and I believe one day she will be sainted by the Church, recognised by the people of France as the saviour she tried to be, just as she is my refuge now in the darkness. Since I was little, she has been my strength – Jeanne and that cathedral on the island. She rallies the hearts of the misbegotten, the queer, the sons of the soil – a pinprick of light in the French soul.
For we have had our dark moments, Paris and I.
I’ve lit candles in there, heard Mass many times, heard choirs and Latin services (many years ago). I’ve cried and prayed – even though I don’t pray. Once I even got pick-pocketed in there.
And now my heart weeps for it and I hope against hope the firefighters can save it.