Historic Inferno: Notre Dame Cathedral Burns

The Notre-Dame Cathedral caught on fire on April 15th, 2019. Courtesy of CNN.com

By Kat Kaderabek

The day after Holy Week began, one of the oldest, most historic of the Catholic Churches, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, caught on fire. The building burned for several hours before firefighters were able to contain the blaze.

The fire would come to destroy several parts of the building, claiming several artifacts in its wake. The stained-glass Rose windows of Notre Dame are safe, along with the relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns and additional relics belonging to saints and Christ himself. The altar and cross also survived the fire. The Paris Fire Brigade tweeted as the fire burned that the “main works of art” have been saved; however, there is no confirmation of the specific artwork itself.

The Cathedral itself was built in 1163 A.D. and has become the symbolic center of Paris. Not only is it an icon for the French people, it is also one of the most well-visited Churches in the world. EUtouring reports that the Church receives over 13 million pilgrims a year, averaging anywhere between 30,000-50,000 people per day.

As of Tuesday, April 16th, investigators are ruling the fire an accident. The New York Times quoted Paris prosecutor, Remy Heitz, who determined nothing at present leads investigators to arson. There are currently more than fifty investigators working on identifying the cause of the fire.

Regardless of the cause, the fire shocked people around the world, including many Catholic University students and faculty.

“When I saw the video of Notre Dame’s spire collapse into the fire, my heart broke,” freshman politics major, Francesca Dyke, said. “To see such a magnificent structure that pointed millions of people to God simply burst into flames is terrifying because it reminds us that nothing on this earth is permanent.”

Not only was Notre Dame filled with priceless religious relics, the structure itself contained an architectural significance that has yet to be repeated. The iconic bell towers and flying buttresses are the epitome of Gothic architecture. Notre Dame is as much a religious icon as a monument to architecture.

Fox5 News recently interviewed the Dean of Catholic U’s School of Architecture, Randall Ott. He later discussed the tragedy before a class on the history of architecture.

Sophomore Schola Eburuoh commented on his lecture, saying, “It was amazing to me how much of the structure was salvaged and unharmed by the fire. What surprised me was that when a fire of that size occurs, it’s said that the structure is ‘ruined’ twice, once by the fire and once by the absurd amount of water that has to be dumped on it to stop the fire.”

Many other architecture students had similar reactions to the burning of Notre Dame. “Notre Dame has been the only building to make me cry when I entered it,” said Liz Meyers, a senior who visited Notre Dame in March of 2018 during her time studying abroad. “It has been such an iconic piece of history, especially for architects around the globe. To see it burn is overwhelming.”

In the wake of tragedy, there are those who are trying to remain positive. “It’s a tragic event,” says Physics professor, Dr. Steve Kraemer. “However, the main historical pieces were not taken. Other than the roof and the eves, everything else that burned were additions to the Church. We should be grateful the fire isn’t as bad as it could have been.”

Francesca Dyke is also trying to look on the positive side of this historic disaster. “I’m also awestruck that this tragedy happened on the first day of Holy Week,” said Dyke. “However, we must be reminded that Easter is coming and the Resurrection reminds us that God will restore what has been lost and bring life to what seemed to be dead.”

French President, Emmanuel Macron pledged to have the cathedral rebuilt within five years; however, the time span cannot be determined until more information is released. “We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral even more beautifully,” Macron said, “We can do it, and once again, we will mobilize (to do so).”

Untec, the national union for construction economists, estimated the rebuilding would cost a maximum $600 million dollars as reported by the BBC Network. The Washington Post reported that $650 million dollars were raised within hours of the fire. The current total sum of donations has yet to be reported.  

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