Why We Mourn Sacred Buildings

What is it about a building made of stone and wood — however old — that connects humanity on a basic level?

Jake Neher/WDET

There was an outpouring of grief on social media last week as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris.

Many people shared photos of the time they had visited the cathedral. But even those who had never been to Paris, aren’t Catholic, and have no connection to the structure itself expressed feelings of profound loss.

But why? What is it about a building made of stone and wood — however old — that connects so many of us on such a basic level?

On Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson and guests talk about Notre Dame, other sacred and/or historical places, and what it means to all of us when those places are lost or severely damaged.

Fr. Gilbert Sunghera is an associate professor of architecture of University of Detroit-Mercy and a Jesuit priest here in Detroit. 

Rev. Gerald Toussaint is the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. His church is one of three historically black churches destroyed by fire after a string of arson attacks in that state.

Click on the audio player above to hear those conversations.

And click here to listen to a conversation on Detroit Today about a historic log cabin in Detroit that was destroyed — not by fire — but by the city’s Land Bank Authority.


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.