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Architectural tragedy has struck Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-dame side view

Flames engulfed the momentous 850-year old Notre-Dame Cathedral yesterday. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the famous landmark to its former glory while French Billionaires detonate €300m between them for reconstruction.

Yesterday at 18:30 local time a fire began to rip through the 12th century gothic building. Firefighters worked tirelessly and managed to save the main stone structure and its two towers. Unfortunately, the spire fell, the roof collapsed and overall the building sustained considerable damage. It is believed the fire was linked to the renovation work being done on the Cathedral.

Billionaire François-Henri Pinault has pledged €100m and Bernard Arnault’s family €200m. An international appeal has also been made by the French charity Fondation du Patrimoine to fund the Unesco World Heritage site.

French President Macron said: “We’ll rebuild this cathedral all together and it’s undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we’ll have for the coming years.” He continued: “That’s what the French expect [and] because it’s what our history deserves.”

Architectural history of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Construction began on Notre-dame Cathedral in 1160 and took 100 years to complete. Until the Eiffel tower was built in 1889 it was the tallest structure in Paris with its towers reaching 69m high.

Model of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Model of Notre-Dame Cathedral (Photographer Lorna Jackopson April 2019)

According to the Notre-Dame website (http://www.notredamedeparis.fr), the iconic Western Façade “begun under the episcopate of Eudes de Sully from 1200 by the third architect and continued under his successors, including William of Auvergne, after 1220 by the fourth. The North tower was completed in 1240 and the South tower in 1250”. It describes the dimensions as “imposing” at:

– 41m in width
– 43m in height to the base of the towers
– 63m at the top of the towers

Notre-Dame Western Façade

Notre-Dame Western Façade (Photographer Lorna Jackopson April 2019)

The church eventually fell into disrepair and in the early 1800s was half ruined. Following Victor Hugo’s novel; Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), the Cathedral gained notoriety and Architects Jean-Baptiste-Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc were commissioned for its restoration in 1844 by King Lois Phillipe.

Viollet-le-duc was quoted as saying: “To restore a building is not to maintain it, to repair it or to remake it, it is to restore it to a complete state which may never have existed at a given moment.”

Associate Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, Krupali Krusche said: “Architecturally, it was significant at the time it was built because it was built in the Gothic tradition… Gothic architecture allowed the buildings to be lighter and to go higher, reaching out to the heavens, and then the light allowed it to be having a sense of being able to connect to new knowledge.”

She continued that the “very thin shell [of the building] and the light buttresses on the shell allow it to reach greater heights than any catholic church previously built.”

Notre-Dame now welcomes around 13 million visitors every year to witness its iconic architecture and worship within its sculpted interiors.

Notre-Dame interior

Notre-Dame interior (Photographer Lorna Jackopson April 2019)

The church captured the imagination with Quasimodo’s infamous story and survived the French revolution and German occupation. Monday’s fire has had a devastating effect on this building, but with its generous funding it is hoped it can be restored to it known magnificence.

Find out about other Architectural wonders of the world with our Blog; Iconic architecture of the world.