In the midst of everything else going on in the world, work continues to restore Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Not just a landmark but a beacon of hope, the world famous cathedral was also home to important relics of Christianity before the fire on April 15th, 2019 that shocked the world. ABC invites viewers to relive every moment of that memorable day through a new two-hour special airing Wednesday, September 16th, called Notre-Dame: Our Lady of Paris.
The special uses first-hand accounts, French news coverage, mobile phone videos, and animated watercolor illustrations to recreate the events and walk viewers through them, from what was going on before the fire alarms gave warning to all inside to the last flames being extinguished. It’s full of chilling moments and inspiring stories, the likes of which even Victor Hugo would be hard pressed to top.
Parishioners, clergy, and students attending a field trip to the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral share their experiences of attending the last mass before disaster struck and the chilling passage that was read just before the fire alarms started. These scenes are juxtaposed against the real heroes of the story, the firefighters of the Poissy Firehouse who were cleaning their gear and vehicles for an annual inspection that would take place the next day when they got the call. All was calm, peaceful, and uneventful until the fire started and the special doesn’t dive into the cause of it, which is still speculated.
The majority of the special follows the firefighters, including a new addition to the team on her very first call. These heroes risked their lives to save a Parisian monument and you’ll find out just how close they came to losing everything in this gripping documentary. It also covers how they almost lost the iconic bells of Notre-Dame and for Disney fans, it’s impossible to watch this section without hearing the Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz music from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame while you watch.
One of the most chilling moments is the recovery of three sacred relics stored inside a complicated safe. The keeper of the keys was present, but the access codes that accompany each of them were offsite and the coordinated effort to remove the crown of thorns in addition to a nail and piece of wood from the holy cross are inspiring to see. Not exactly a downside, but the only thing that prevents viewers from truly being on the edge of their seat is that we know how this story ends.
Notre-Dame: Our Lady of Paris gives viewers a well-made first-hand account of exactly what happened on April 15th, 2019. For the most part, the interviews are dubbed in English with some subtitles over news footage or on-the-spot interviews as the events unfolded. By the end of it, you’ll feel like you were there, praying with the people of Paris for this landmark to survive the inferno.
Notre-Dame: Our Lady of Paris airs April 15th, 2019, at 9/8c on ABC.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.