Everything You Need to Know About the Notre-Dame Cathedral

Everything You Need to Know About the Notre-Dame Cathedral

by Olivia Hakes


On April 15, 2019, between 6:00pm-7:00pm, le Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris broke out into flames. The fire raged within the 856-year-old historical monument for at least 12 hours, causing the most damage to the wooden roof. Officials say that an alarm sounded around 6:20pm, and the building was evacuated immediately, but no fire was discovered at first. Then, at 6:43pm, another alarm sounded in which visible flames spread quickly along the roof of the cathedral. As many Parisians and tourists watched in horror, firefighters were quick to arrive to the scene.

Bell tolled at cathedrals across the French capital two days later. Each year, the Notre-Dame Cathedral receives around 13 million visitors and is what many Parisians call “the heart of France.” Holding centuries of history, priceless relics, and religious importance, the tragic fire has drawn tears from people all over the world.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral was in the middle of a $6.8 million renovation after cracks were found in the building’s stone which caused fear of instability. About 50 investigators are working diligently on finding the cause of this catastrophe, and questioned over 40 people soon following the incident. There have been accusations that a cigarette caused the fire, but so far the judicial police have told investigators that it was likely an electrical short-circuit that caused the fire.

Over 400 firefighters were involved in the effort to put out the fire. Water-dropping aircraft weren’t used on the wooden sections of the building to avoid further damage or collapse. There were no reported casualties of this incident, but to many it felt all the same. As the spire in the center of Notre Dame’s roof collapsed, onlookers watched in horror as a great symbol of their culture, religion, and history crumbled before their eyes.

The construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 under rule of King Louis VII, and was finished in 1345. The cathedral is home to some of the most important moments in the history of France. It was where Christian crusaders prayed before fighting in the Holy Land, Henry VI of England was crowned king in 1431, revolutionaries contradicted French kings, and where Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804.

Within two days of the incident, nearly $1 billion was raised globally to help rebuild the iconic cathedral. Donations have come from a broad range of companies and people including owners of brands like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Moët & Chandon, L’Oreal, and many more. Such a significant amount of money raised in such a short period of time is applauded by most, but has also raised eyebrows from different activist groups. When the National Museum of Brazil in Rio De Janeiro was destroyed by flames in 2018, some of the oldest human remains, fossils, a giant meteorite, and hundreds of other important artifacts were erased from history. Many activists continue to question why the this museum was not treated with the same amount of support as Notre Dame, especially when its fire caused a significantly larger amount of damage.

Although some of Notre Dame lays in ashes, many precious relics were recovered from the building. While the main altar was buried debris, the large cross still remained standing. Thankfully, the most iconic features of the cathedral – the bell towers and stained glass windows – remained unharmed. The crown of thorns, which many Christians believed were worn by Jesus, himself, were saved, along with the tunic of San Luis, the great organ, the bronze statues of the 12 Apostles, and several paintings.

The next steps surrounding Notre Dame are still being debated, but all agree that this historical monument needs to be handled with care. Notre Dame has lived through seasons of war, hate, disease, and hardship, which has given the world hope that it can make it through this.


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