The Notre Dame Fire

By Elizabeth Fedro

The world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral, home to 13 million visitors a year, has remained a prominent religious institute for 856 years. Construction began in 1163 (during the reign of King Louis VII), and the cathedral took over 200 years to be built (completed in 1345). As this construction took place during the medieval times, this was a process that spanned over several generations. The Cathedral, seat of the archbishop of Paris, was built on a small island, called the Île de la Cité (middle of the Seine). With its flying buttresses and pointed arches, the Notre Dame Cathedral  is considered a “jewel of medieval Gothic architecture”. The Notre Dame Cathedral is also home to the world’s biggest glass window; The south rose window at the cathedral measures 12.9 meters in diameter, containing 84 panes of glass. Its 800-year-old roof was once made up of wood from forests, but ever since the fire on April 15, much of its structure and contents remain demolished.

On Monday, April 15, around 6:30pm, a fire alarm was sounded throughout Notre Dame. The fire spread quickly throughout the building, but it was for the most part located in the back of the building where the architecture was primarily made of wood. The cathedral burned until about 3:30am the next day when fleets of firemen rushed to contain the fire. Because Notre Dame has high ceilings, the fire was not easily contained and the oxygen circulating only fueled the flames. The damage done to the cathedral was severe but not catastrophic. The iconic spire fell amid the burning rubble and there was great damage to the back end of the building, but overall, it is said that the cathedral is able to be fixed and returned to its former glory. The cause of the fire in Notre Dame is still unclear, but there was no evidence on site that leads one to believe that this was a malicious act. The cathedral was under construction so it is speculated that a malfunction or accident on the construction site set the fire ablaze. Although this was a horrific event for world, it brought the people of Paris together and connected people all around the world to mourn the damage done to the Notre Dame.

On Tuesday April 16th, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to restore the Notre Dame within five years. With just under $1 billion raised in donations for its reconstruction, this affair marks one of the most important cultural renovation projects in France. Many believe that five years to finalize this project is a stretch and even predict this 850-year-old icon will take up to two decades to restore. However, with such grand donations and international support, five years surely is possible to mend the Notre Dame Cathedral back to its beauty.

A Shortened History of the Notre Dame Cathedral:

  • Damaged + neglected in 1790’s during French Revolution
  • Henry VI of England declared King of France inside Notre Dame in 1431
  • Napoleon Bonaparte crowned emperor there in 1804
  • Joan of Arc was beatified in cathedral by Pope Pius X in 1909