Inspiring tribute to Notre Dame: the book ‘The Girl and the Cathedral’ by Nicolas Jeter – Get Involved
Nicolas Jeter, author, invites you to become part of this inspiring tribute
‘The Girl and the Cathedral’ is a children’s book – a story about heaven, humanity, tragedy, and new beginnings. It’s a tribute. A history. A love letter.
It is not a dry retelling of history. Rather, in the spirit of The Little Prince, it is the extraordinary tale of a small girl with an island in the Seine. There, she begins a garden—but not a garden of flowers. It will be a garden of people, she says: Paris.
This breathtaking book is a tribute to the soul of Paris. It includes a fold-out timeline and stained glass windows – just beautiful!
You are invited to join this commemoration project & publication of a superb children’s book via Kickstarter.
This is the extraordinary story of Notre Dame de Paris.
For more than 850 years, Notre Dame brought a piece of heaven to her island on the Seine. Her people loved her. She loved her people. Her song rang across the city and across the years, her bells mingled with mystery through the ups and downs of joy, war, suffering, prosperity, and happiness. Her story spans the ages of kings, emperors, presidents, revolution, and change.
And then, like most of the world, we were stunned as we watched flames erupt through her roof. Like the light that pours through her windows, we had come to believe she would always be there—a beacon of hope and inspiration, a quiet touch of the divine in the midst of the world’s clamor.
We are grateful to know that Notre Dame will always be there, due in large part to the generosity of the world and those that love her.
While that reconstruction goes on, we wish to offer a tribute of our own—a story of hope and love, of life and rebirth. In this book, through illustration and prose, we pay homage to the grand story of Notre Dame—who she is, how she was, and what she has come to mean to millions the world over for 850 years.
And in the spirit of giving back, we pledge that for every book sold, we will donate a book to kids in need—book for book.
Meet Nic and David: author and publisher
Nicolas Jeter grew up in Texas, and as you might guess from the spelling of his first name, his family is rich in French heritage.
As a young man, he served as a missionary in Paris and fell in love with the city, the people, and the language, which he speaks fluently. Years later, after working as an intern in the US Embassy and later in a French law firm, he was encouraged by David Miles, his former college roommate and founder of Bushel & Peck Books, to write a story commemorating Notre Dame de Paris.
The result is beautiful: a moving story, a tribute to Notre Dame, and a love letter to Paris.
Your invitation to join in – learn how via kickstarter
David and Nic are funding the publication of the book through Kickstarter, where they’ve already raised US$5,000. [UPDATE 12 August, 2019: US$9,000+ of US$10,000 – 8 days to go]
In addition to pre-ordering the book, backers of their project can earn miniature gargoyle statues, illustrated prints, stained glass art, and other beautiful keepsakes that celebrate all things Paris!
David and Nic have very generously given MyFrenchLife™ the unique opportunity to share this story with you – you can read it below!
As a way of MyFrenchLife members reciprocating – showing our gratitude for their generosity – and because this is such a wonderful project commemorating our beloved Notre Dame de Paris – I urge you to join us in helping bring this project to life.
Watch this beautiful video… and wait for the goosebumps to appear!
Unique opportunity to be involved in ‘The Girl and the Cathedral’ tribute
The Girl and the Cathedral
By Nicolas Jeter
On an island in a river, I met a small girl.
She was digging in the ground and getting dirt everywhere. Next to her stood a smile pile of rocks.
“You are making a mess,” I said.
“No,” the little girl said. “I am making a garden. That means getting dirty.”
She was a very small little girl. I did not think she would know how to make a garden.
It was a starry, starry night. The river flowed with its eternal murmur, the sound of ages passing in whisper.
The little girl dropped a stone at the point of the island, placing it atop a small pile of stones. “This will be a garden of people.”
“Of people?” I asked. I smiled as I imagined her trying to place men, women, and children in the soil.
She smiled too. “Or, I should say, I will make a garden, and then I will fill it with people. It will be a garden called Paris.”
“But they are just stones,” I said. “They don’t grow, or make flowers. Or gardens. Or people.”
She just didn’t answer. She only kept digging in the dirt, humming happily to herself.
The next time I saw the little girl, her garden had started to grow, stretching to both sides of the long, thin island. The garden had even grown beyond the island, crossing over the water and spreading to the marshes northward.
“I must say,” I told the little girl, “I have seen very few gardens grow so beautifully.”
There was dust and dirt and sweat on the little girl’s face, the way dust and dirt collect on the face of someone who has been working very hard. “Yes,” she said. “The people love my garden.”
The people flowed like ants from all across the land to see the garden called Paris.
“But look,” she pointed. “I saved the best flower for my island.”
I followed her gaze. There, at the point of the island, in the center of her garden, stood a grand cathedral.
“I told you I could make that pile of stones into a flower!” she laughed. “It took a long time.”
“What do you call this flower?” I asked her.
“This is Notre Dame de Paris. It is unlike any other flower in my garden.”
I took a close look at her flower that she called Notre Dame de Paris. It was a grand building, the tallest of the garden that was called Paris.
It seemed to bring heaven down to the island, and the island to heaven. Two great towers, with roots that plunged deep into the island, bells ringing, formed a chorus with the birds and the wind and the river, against a blue sky and beneath a grand steeple. Along its walls, there were glass windows of every color, and statues of saints and monsters, with eyes that seemed to follow me and chests that seemed to breathe. No garden had ever had such a flower as this, a perfect blend of peace and mystery.
“But, how can you call this a flower,” I wondered. “This is a building. It has doors and stone and a wood roof, with a vaulted ceiling and statues and gargoyles and carvings and paintings throughout. The people pass in and out. People cannot go in and out of flowers, and flowers cannot be made of stone.”
“Flowers cannot be made of stone?” The little girl turned to me, incredulous. “Of course flowers can be made of stone! Look how beautifully she has grown in the soil of history and legend. Look how the sunlight feeds the colors of her Rose Window. Look how the moonlight falls across her bell towers, flowing like rainwater to feed my thirsty flower. Some of the best flowers are made of stone.”
Many years later, I returned to the island.
The little girl wore a crown upon her head. “My garden has a king,” she declared. “The people are both rich and poor, hungry and fat, happy and sad.”
“What kind of garden grows when a king is over it?” I asked. Notre Dame, the most beautiful flower in the garden, had grown as well. It seemed to shine under the many arms of the Sun, which reached forth as if to be the first to touch the building.
“Some of the best things and some of the worst things,” the little girl said as she poured some water on the soil next to Notre Dame.
“Just water the best things,” I suggested.
She laughed. “Gardening doesn’t always work like that.”
“Then your garden is doomed?” I asked.
She just kept pouring the water, singing quietly to hersel
I did not think of the little girl for a long time. I thought she might have left the island and her garden. But, one day, from far away, she waved to me, as much a gardener as I had known her.
“Look at my garden!” she exclaimed. Paris had grown to be very large, pushing beyond the walls that tried to hold the garden in. But it was different. Fierce, turbulent winds and the sounds of anger hung over the garden like a wild rainstorm.
“Your garden has changed,” I said. “What kind of garden is this?”
“I planted a Revolution,” the little girl said, sadly. “The people do not have a king anymore. I do not know what my garden will be tomorrow. Everything is sadness and change.”
I saw fire and fighting throughout the garden called Paris. “Your greatest flower will fall!” I cried.
“No,” she said. “But it will never be the same. I’m learning that Revolutions are not kind to flowers, even when the flowers are made of stone.”
I expected the Revolution to destroy everything.
Instead, the next time I saw the little girl, she stood excitedly on the island, her knees muddy from kneeling in the dirt, and a shovel in her hand.
“My garden changes!” the little girl said. “It is growing and growing and growing, and the people never agree on anything. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they don’t. They sing and create and cry and love.”
“This is a very complex garden.” I said. “And how is your greatest flower, the one called Notre Dame de Paris?”
“Not as I would like,” she said. “Flowers made of stone require much more nourishment than other kinds of flowers.”
“But she is still so beautiful,” I said, “Especially in the rain against the curtains of moonlight.”
“Oui,” the little girl whispered. “Elle est très belle. But if the people do not remember her, she will fall. Flowers like Notre Dame are fragile.”
I looked across the garden called Paris, the way flowers bloomed there as if no flowers had ever bloomed anywhere else, and I looked at the fields for miles around Paris, and to the people who pressed upon the city. And, at the center of it all was Notre Dame, strong and ever-changing, ever-reaching for the Sun, and upon its arches rested the weight of ages, an entire history etched in its marred stone, a history almost too heavy for any flower.
I looked then at the little girl. She seemed tired, almost as burdened as Notre Dame. “I hope you visit again,” she said. “It is lonely to garden a flower like Notre Dame.”
I visited the garden many times, and Notre Dame continued to flourish, stretching toward the Sun. Or, the Sun stretched toward it. It was hard to tell the difference.
I watched Notre Dame as children played beneath her windows and as the first hot air balloon rose higher and higher above her towers.
Before her doors, I saw that the little girl had planted many unique and wonderful seeds. Science bloomed. Literature blossomed. Theater and Music flowered. Dance waved gracefully in the breeze. And ever so imperceptibly, Liberty and Equality stretched higher and higher, strengthening beneath the shade of the little girl’s great flower.
“My garden is more beautiful than ever,” said the little girl.
For a moment, she seemed lost in thought.
“I,” she said victoriously and with a bright smile, “am a very good gardener.” As I turned to leave, she stood joyfully hands on her hips and dirt on her face, looking down on her garden.
On my next visit, beauty had given way to darkness. The garden called Paris seemed to be dying. Flowers bloomed weakly, and even the river seemed to flow in sadness.
“What is this?” I asked, fearing for the garden and for Notre Dame.
“This is called a war,” she said. “It’s a war unlike any other. A lot of gardens get wars, as you know, but this is the worst I’ve seen.” She closed her eyes, and small golden tears rolled across her dirt-stained cheeks. “I cannot bear to watch my garden.”
I tried to comfort her. “Look,” I said. “At least your greatest flower is still standing.”
Through the darkness and fire and fighting, almost like a flame flickering through the shadows of a storm, Notre Dame watched patiently over the garden called Paris, and the people looked to her.
Notre Dame listened to the silent prayer of an old woman who pled that her son would return safe from the war. Notre Dame shone with hope even when the rest of the garden darkened in soot and despair.
And her bells sang with joy when, finally, the war ended.
“My garden is free again,” the little girl sang.
And as if to celebrate, Notre Dame, her greatest flower, bloomed with such dazzling light that the whole world gazed to look upon her.
To its windows and walls thronged the greatest minds of all the earth’s gardens. I saw artists sit along the river and paint her flying buttresses. I saw novelists and poets gather to debate grand ideas. I saw pilgrims flock to wonder at the divine light that passed through her heavenly windows. Presidents, prime ministers, and royalty meditated between her pillars.
It seemed Notre Dame would live on forever the heart of the garden called Paris.
One day, I found the little girl crying.
“Ma fleur brûle,” she said, quietly.
Flames rose high from the roof of Notre Dame, and all of the garden called Paris turned to watch the cathedral burn.
“No flower lives forever,” the little girl said. “Not even the most beautiful. And I am sad to know that.”
She held my hand, and we watched together as Notre Dame burned.
All of the sudden, we heard, almost as if a whisper that rose to fill our ears, the sound of singing.
From all parts of the garden called Paris, and from far away, people turned to Notre Dame and began to sing.
“Oh!” said the little girl. “My people will save my flower!”
“Singing?” I said, “What can a song do for your flower? We need water!”
As the singing swelled, the little girl looked at me with fierce lightning in her eyes, almost as intense as the fire itself, “I did not plant Notre Dame in water. I planted her in the people. Look closely. They are not alone.”
I turned, and saw, really saw, Paris for the first time. Like so many countless stars that had twinkled around Notre Dame’s bell towers, the spirits of Parisians long passed appeared, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those living, with their children and grandchildren – And all sang, in a line that no death or separation could break, and as one family, brilliant and gold, the line stretched far across the world and away from Paris, to swamps and jungles and deserts and snow, to every place where Notre Dames roots had taken hold. Together, those living and dead shone far brighter than the flames, so that the garden called Paris disappeared and all I saw was the people of every age.
We watched for a long time.
The fire died, but Notre Dame did not.
The Sun rose, reaching, as always, for Notre Dame, and the smoke twirled up, almost apologetically, from the garden called Paris.
We looked upon the blackened remains of the little girl’s favorite flower.
“Will she be the same?” I asked. “When she grows again, I mean.”
“No,” she sighed. “Flowers of stone cannot ever turn back to exactly what they were before. Flowers are like people in that way. Scars do not ever fully heal, they just sprout new leaves. Notre Dame will continue to blossom, just differently than before.”
“I am still sad,” I said.
A faint playful smile crept from behind her tears. “Then grab a shovel,” the little girl said. “We have work to do.”
She turned and began to dig in the dirt, hope shining in her eyes. She worked vigorously, like only the gardener of Paris could.
I smiled, grabbed a shovel, and joined her in the garden.
We got dirt everywhere.
Merci mille fois to Nic and David for the unique privilege of sharing this wonderful story with our readers.
What a magnificent tribute to Notre Dame de Paris this is! Please consider making a pledge.
 She is very beautiful
 “My flower burns.”Image Credits
All images © Sara Ugolotti – illustrator and Nicolas Jeter – author