Notre-Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral situated in Paris, France. Considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, this cathedral has served as a site of pilgrimage for Catholics throughout the world, remaining France’s biggest tourist attractions.
This year on April 15th, the cathedral caught fire under mysterious circumstances. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials say it might have started as an accident during restoration work. From the moment the first orange flames became visible, hundreds of people had run down to the river screaming “Notre Dame is burning!” It burned for around fifteen hours, which led to the complete destruction of the roof and collapse of the spire.
The cathedral is famous for its flying buttresses. These are a form of structural support that became popular in the Gothic period of architecture. CDM Smith Professor and chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at the Northeastern University, Jerome Hajjar claimed to teach students in his classes about Notre Dame’s flying buttresses as an example of innovation in steel structures. According to Hajjar “Large fires destroy the structural integrity of buildings, forcing the weight of the building to be suddenly and unevenly redistributed. Older structures were typically built with more redundancy than modern buildings. This means more load-bearing walls than we might consider necessary today”.
Lucy Maulsby, an associate professor of architectural history at the Northeastern University said, “The scale of the damage is much, much less than had been feared. However, assessing all the damage wrought by the inferno will take days or weeks”. She further said, “I and many of my colleagues, have been looking closely at images from the fire to see whether there’s any light visible inside the building. The presence of light would have meant the fire had dropped down into the belly of the building, where it would have begun melting the historic stained-glass windows. Once stained-glass windows are exposed to extreme heat, they’re gone completely”. “The building is a relic. There have been moments in history when it’s become the center of public and architectural discourse. I wonder whether this might be another of those moments” she concluded.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman