A massive fire broke out at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, April 15. It has devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church. The fire is now out, but the cathedral’s wooden spire has collapsed and most of its roof has been damaged. The cause of the fire is not known, but the Paris fire brigade believes it is “potentially linked” to a 6 million euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire. Investigators are interviewing workers who were repairing the roof before the fire broke out.
An iconic architectural wonder
The Notre Dame cathedral is one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world. Construction on Notre Dame began in 1163 and took 200 years to finish. The cathedral is built on a natural island in the middle of the Seine river.
Gothic architecture became very popular in Western Europe during the middle ages. One of the most striking features of this style of architecture is its use of flying buttresses, which help support the walls. Notre Dame was one of the earliest Gothic structures built with exterior flying buttresses to lend support to the walls. In addition to its iconic oak wood spire and flying buttresses, Notre Dame’s architecture is also well-known for its gargoyles, bell towers and rose windows.
The cathedral is also home to a huge number of artworks and artifacts. Firefighters formed a human chain to rescue some of the religious artifacts, including the Holy Crown of Thorns, that some people believe was worn by Jesus Christ.
The past and the present
Notre Dame has suffered destruction from war and weather and restoration over the ages. The last time the Cathedral underwent massive damage was during the French Revolution, during which heads of statues were removed and the cathedral was used for food storage. It survived two world wars largely unscathed.
It underwent restoration in the mid 19th century – thanks in part to the popularity of Victor Hugo’s novel, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The book was later adapted into an animated movie by Disney in 1996.
Rebuilding the cathedral will probably take years. French president Emmanuel Macron has assured that the French will “rebuild it together”. Donations have poured in from around the world for the restoration efforts with more than €800m being pledged by French tycoons and global corporations.
Some more facts about the Notre Dame Cathedral:
- It receives almost 13 million visitors each year, even more than the Eiffel Tower.
- Although Notre-Dame’s two bell towers appear like identical twins, closer examination reveals that the north tower is, in fact, a bit bigger than the south.
- Notre-Dame is also home to one of the world’s largest organs (involving almost 8000 pipes) and ten huge church bells. The largest bell named Emmanuel is situated in the south tower weighing 13 tons.
- It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.