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The Significance of Losing The Notre Dame Cathedral

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

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Notre Dame Cathedral

On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. The cathedral, which is almost 1,000 years old, was mourned in what was thought to be a total loss due to restoration efforts. Thankfully, it wasn't. The twin bell towers and much of the interior was saved along with many of the artifacts that lie within the structure. If it was, though, what would we have lost? If you're unfamiliar with the cathedral and curious about its significance, read ahead.

The Crown of Thorns

Jesus on a cross

The Notre Dame Cathedral is home to what is said to be the crown of thorns that Jesus himself wore during his crucifixion, along with a piece of Jesus's cross and a nail from the cross itself. While there is no way to prove the validity of these claims, they are widely believed among the Catholic and Christian faith.

The crown was brought to the King of France, Louis IX, by Baldwin II, the Latin Emperor of Constantinople, in 1238. It made its way into the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1801 after the French Revolution. Thankfully, all three pieces were saved during the fire.

The Rose Windows

Glass stained window

The Notre Dame Cathedral is home to three incredible rose windows. The south rose window was offered by King Saint Louis and was created by Jean de Chelles, the first architect that worked on the cathedral. The window is dedicated to the New Testament of the Bible, displaying both the descent to Hell and the resurrection of Christ in the east and west ends.

The north rose window is filled with images of kings and prophets of the Old Testament. The rose window on the west is the smallest of the three, and none of the ancient glass survives in this window due to restoration over the years. The rose windows all remain intact after the fire.

The Bells

A boat heading toward Notre Dame Cathedral

Fittingly, many churches in France and around the world rang their bells in solidarity as the Notre Dame burned. The cathedral has four bells that have rung every 15 minutes since 1856. They also ring for major world events, such as the end of World War I and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Most of the bells have been replaced over the years, but the famous Bourdon Emmanuel bell, which is located in the south tower, has survived since 1681. When Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84, the bell rang 84 times to honor his life. This is the only bell in the Notre Dame Cathedral considered by experts to have historical significance. Luckily, the main bells all survived.

Devastating Losses

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Due to the common Gothic-esque style of high-vaulted ceilings, the roof structure and wooden frame of the cathedral were made from tall oak trees. The trees were cut down around 1160 at 300 to 400 years old, dating the estimated 1,300 trees to the eighth or ninth century. Each beam was drawn from a different tree.

The roof structure, which has been appropriately named "the forest," was lost in the fire, and likely even added fuel to the flame. The once revered framework became its demise as it contained 52-acres of highly flammable wood. The structure was a concern that was likely to be addressed during upcoming restoration efforts in the cathedral.

Additionally, the wooden spire that sat atop the cathedral at 295 feet collapsed as the world watched.

Looking Toward the Future

Gargoyle on Notre Dame

The iconic Paris landmark has been damaged and restored before. Although the recent fire is the most devastating event the Notre Dame Cathedral has endured, the building is no stranger to destruction. The church was vandalized by French Protestants in the 16th century, had artifacts destroyed and plundered during the French Revolution, and had statues of biblical kings beheaded as it was being used as a storage unit.

The French President Emmanuel Macron announced after the fire that the worst had been avoided, and pledged to rebuild the iconic structure over time. In fact, a French billionaire François-Henri Pinault has promised 100 million euros to help with the rebuilding of the cathedral. If it has been damaged and rebuilt before, I have faith that it will be again,


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