Notre Dame Will Go On

Ken AshfordDisasters, HistoryLeave a Comment

There are few events that can so transfix the world that it seems everyone is watching, but as flames poured out of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, the world definitely seemed to be holding its collective breath. Fortunately, with a human chain of people reaching into the smoky interior as flames crackled above, many of the cathedral’s art treasures and relics were saved. The bells, and the bell towers, did not fall. And though the span of fire across the whole of the roof, and the heart-breaking fall of the iconic spire, made it seem impossible at times that anything might survive, at the end of the night all but one end of the massive 850-year-old stone vault remained intact. Images from inside the building show a structure that, for all the damage, seems remarkably whole. 

Lost almost completely were Notre Dame’s lead-lined roof and a support structure composed of 800-year-old oak beams. When that roof collapsed almost along its full length on Monday afternoon, images showed the entire structure shrouded in flames, and it seemed impossible that anything would persist. But firefighters brought the flames under control, and the stone vaults appear to have sheltered the building’s interior—a feature that was actually designed into Notre Dame from the beginning.

Other than a collapse that occurred at one end, it is unclear at this point how much damage was suffered by the stone vault. Intense heating of the stone just below the roof may still lead to additional failures, or require some very careful removal of weakened material, but it appears that the massive columns and buttresses that support the 12th-century structure are intact.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt.

The New York Times reports that the family of Bernard Arnault, who owns the luxury brands Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, plans to contribute €200 million toward rebuilding Notre Dame. The family of François-Henri Pinault, owner of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent and husband of actor Salma Hayek, has pledged €100 million. A public fundraising drive is being organized to bring in still more.

Relics that spared destruction include the Crown of Thorns, all three Rose windows, the Tunic of Saint Louis, the original Great Organ , and
the cathedral’s main bell (named Emanuelle, which lives in the South tower). Reports are mixed or unknown regarding the “True Cross” (wood purported to be part of Jesus’s crucifixion cross” and one of the Holy Nails.
There were also numerous sculptures, statues and paintings inside the cathedral depicting Biblical scenes and saints whose fate remains unknown at this time.

NY Post:

A hero priest made a daring dash into the burning Notre Dame cathedral Monday night to save the Crown of Thorns, a religious relic dating back to the 13th century, according to reports.

Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, also rescued the Blessed Sacrament, the devotional name for the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of consecrated bread and wine, Ireland’s radio station NewsTalk reported.

“Father Fournier is an absolute hero,” a member of the emergency services told the station. “He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

Fournier was among the responders who formed a human chain to save some of the most precious artifacts stored at Notre Dame.

The Crown of Thorns, said to be placed on the head of Jesus Christ at crucifixion, was brought to Paris by French King Louis IX in 1238. The ornate headpiece — which is rarely displayed to the public — was stored in a gold case in the cathedral’s treasury.