Notre-Dame Cathedral de Paris Damaged By Raging Fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral de Paris Damaged By Raging Fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of the most attractive tourist sights in the world and a sacred place in the daily lives of Parisiens. On Monday, April 15th, 2019, at 6:20 p.m. (local time 12:20 p.m. ET), the fire alarm in the cathedral went off, but there was no sign of visible flames. According to the fire department, approximately twenty minutes later, at 6:43 p.m., the second fire alarm clamored, and fire became visible. The fire wrecked the wooden roof of the church first, followed by the burning spire which fell dramatically into a black shell. At 9:30 p.m., the French firefighters finally announced that the fire had been extinguished after about nine hours. Fortunately, the worst had been avoided; the façade and the two main towers did not collapse. However, though part of the building was still standing, it was not secure.

More than 850 years old, Notre Dame will require a tremendous amount of repair. Many companies donated hundreds of millions of euros for the original reconstruction plan, but will Notre Dame de Paris ever be as glorious? John David, who was part of the team of craftsmen who worked to rebuild England’s York Minster Cathedral from the fire of 1984 said, “There was no fear about putting it back, and I imagine that’s the same in this case.” According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Professor Binski, a professor of medieval art at the University of Cambridge, said, “If a large amount of the stone vaulting needs to be replaced, it could be the biggest vaulting operation of this type undertaken since the Middle Ages.”  His guess is that it may take a minimum of five to ten years to get the whole structure re-vaulted.

Notre-Dame Cathedral before the fire. The spire, the Rose Window (large stained-glass window), and the smaller stained-glass window above it are easily visible in this photo.

What exactly happened in the fire?

  • The Rose Window, the spectacular stained-glass window that Notre-Dame is known for, appeared undamaged, but the smaller stained-glass window above it was devastated.
  • The wooden spire collapsed and fell through the roof.
  • The roof was ruined, but the arched stone ceiling survived.
  • The organ was examined to be in good condition.
  • The crown of thorns, thought to be the crown Jesus was wearing when he was crucified, was saved.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. To show how intricate the design was, the construction of Notre-Dame started back in the 12th century and wasn’t completed until 300 years later. Over the course of history, Notre-Dame (which means “Our Lady”) has suffered considerable damage, such as during the French Revolution in 1786. However, it was reconstructed after the war.

Now even weather poses a risk for further damage. According to recent BBC news, workers installed more protections on the cathedral. Professional mountain climbers were hired to secure synthetic, waterproof tarps over the gutted, exposed exterior of the cathedral, as authorities raced to prevent further damage ahead of storms that were forecasted for Paris.

Ms. O’Hara, Rectory School’s Spanish teacher, mentioned that the reconstruction team is currently faced with a dilemma about how to reconstruct the ruined spire. They are trying to decide if it would be better to rebuild the spire exactly as it was or to create a more modern version of it. I believe that the former solution would be best because Notre Dame was preserved as a historical monument, and its historical background is what attracts most tourists. If the spire is rebuilt in a modern version, then Notre Dame would lose some of its original significance. The French people have a huge decision to make, and the entire world is waiting to see what they decide.