Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses. Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.
Notre Dame in Paris is not the first great cathedral to suffer a devastating fire, and it probably won’t be the last. In a sense, that is good news. A global army of experts and craftspeople can be called on for the long, complex process of restoring the gutted landmark.
From certain angles on Tuesday, it was almost possible to look head-on at the front of Notre Dame, see its centuries-old rose windows and carved statues and imagine that all was intact. But to stray to any other angle made clear the devastation.
Shocked silence. That is how Winston Holyfield, a Gonzaga University student, described the scene at the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most iconic structures in Paris. Holyfield said that the embers were flying so high in the sky that they look like stars.
A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.