The Notre Dame Cathedral dominates the Paris skyline and is one of the most most loved properties of the world, an iconic feature of France. Work first began on the Cathedral back in 1163 and while it was not completed until 1345 it took just 23 minutes for a fire to cause havoc and devastation on Monday evening. The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the largest religious buildings in the world, has a history which goes back 900 years and will certainly be a challenge to rebuild.
What happened on Monday evening?
Reports suggest that the fire alarms across the Notre Dame Cathedral were activated late on Monday evening although it took 23 minutes to find the source of the flames. During this time the spire and part of the roof of the cathedral were on fire and out of control, with the burning timbers illuminating the Paris skyline. At this moment in time there is no confirmation as to what happened and how the fire was caused but we know that restoration work was underway at the time. Police are currently interviewing workers to try and piece together the devastating events of Monday evening.
Facts about the Notre Dame Cathedral
The cathedral itself is 130 m in length, 48 m wide and 35 m in height and the impressive Rose windows have a diameter of 10 m. The adjacent twin towers rise 69 m into the Paris sky with 387 steps from top to bottom. The Gothic style cathedral houses some priceless artefacts of the Catholicism faith including what is rumoured to be the Rose of Thorns worn by Christ. Affectionately known as “Our Lady of Paris”, Notre Dame Cathedral is still a functioning Catholic Church holding an array of high profile religious and ceremonial events.
While many people will associate the hunchback of Notre Dame, a.k.a. Quasimodo, with the cathedral, this character is purely fictional. One of the many other fascinating facts about the Notre Dame Cathedral occurred in 1804 when Pope Pius VII was invited by Napoleon to become emperor in Notre Dame. Historical records show that Napoleon instead snatched the crown from the Pope and crowned himself!
The building of Notre Dame Cathedral
Many will be unaware but the land on which Notre Dame Cathedral is built has in the past been a site for temples and other churches. History also shows that the Notre Dame Cathedral was one of the first to use the ribbed vault and flying buttress design. Initially the weight of the roof fell on the cathedral walls but using the flying buttress innovation and a ribbed vault it was possible to carry the weight outside of the main structure. The counter supports on the outside of the building are an integral part of the design and certainly not just for show.
It is ironic that the cathedral itself has survived wars and fires in years gone by but in this modern era that 23 minute delay is going to prove extremely costly. It is unclear at this moment in time how much it will cost to restore the cathedral and surrounding buildings but donations as we speak currently top €700 million. Just yesterday, two French billionaires contributed €100 million and €200 million between them.
At this moment in time is impossible to say how much it will cost to restore Notre Dame but the French government has promised to build a better and more striking building without losing touch with its heritage. Ambitious estimates suggest the work could be complete within five years although this is highly unlikely as the firefighters have yet to even gain access to the inner sanctum of the cathedral itself. Thankfully, the majority of religious artefacts and artwork were removed prior to the ongoing restoration or immediately after the fire started. Unfortunately, some artefacts will have been lost forever but the Thorn Crown of Christ and some of the nails used to crucify him have been saved.
Attracting more than 13 million visitors a year, there is immense interest in the Notre Dame Cathedral fire and no doubt there will be massive interest once it has been restored and rebuilt. Ironically, in the 10 years prior to the fire a dispute between the Catholic Church and local authorities led to a significant delay in restoration work. Quite how you rebuild a building which has stood for 900 years will be an interesting property development!