‘Our Lady of Paris’ burns

EDITORIAL

France and the world mourns today as Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and iconic symbol of the beauty and history of the French capital, is devastated by fire.

Recriminations will surely follow, as Paris has a record of ill-preparedness for fires at major historical buildings.

This blaze started in a loft at 6.30pm local time — possibly related to renovations — then broke out into the 850-year-old cathedral’s wooden roof. The Paris fire service scrambled to deploy 400 firefighters over the next three hours . . . their jets of water seemingly insignificant against the inferno; the spire glowed red then collapsed into the cathedral.

By 11pm fire chief General Jean-Claude Gallet said that the stone structure, including the two magnificent towers soaring above the skyline, had been “saved and preserved as a whole”.

Notre Dame Cathedral was commissioned by King Louis VII and the first stone was laid in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III.

Paris had emerged as the centre of power in France and the king wanted a religious monument to match its new status. A medieval basilica occupying the site chosen on Ile de la Cité, one of two islands in the River Seine and the historic heart of Paris, was torn down so the new cathedral could be built. It took another 200 years to complete, and underwent frequent modifications over the centuries.

Desecrated during the French Revolution, by the early 19th century Notre Dame was crumbling and half-ruined inside. The crowning of Napoleon as emperor followed by the success of Victor Hugo’s Gothic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame focused attention on the building, prompting major restorations in the mid-19th century.

Excavations in front of the cathedral in the 1960s discovered buildings successively built on from antiquity — the dockside of ancient Lutecia, Gallo-Roman public baths, an early 4th century city wall — and this archaeological crypt is now a major tourist drawcard itself.

Notre Dame attracts 13 million visitors a year. It is also the heart of the Roman Catholic Church in Paris, and where the country celebrates the lives of its great and good.

France and the world mourns today as Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and iconic symbol of the beauty and history of the French capital, is devastated by fire.

Recriminations will surely follow, as Paris has a record of ill-preparedness for fires at major historical buildings.

This blaze started in a loft at 6.30pm local time — possibly related to renovations — then broke out into the 850-year-old cathedral’s wooden roof. The Paris fire service scrambled to deploy 400 firefighters over the next three hours . . . their jets of water seemingly insignificant against the inferno; the spire glowed red then collapsed into the cathedral.

By 11pm fire chief General Jean-Claude Gallet said that the stone structure, including the two magnificent towers soaring above the skyline, had been “saved and preserved as a whole”.

Notre Dame Cathedral was commissioned by King Louis VII and the first stone was laid in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III.

Paris had emerged as the centre of power in France and the king wanted a religious monument to match its new status. A medieval basilica occupying the site chosen on Ile de la Cité, one of two islands in the River Seine and the historic heart of Paris, was torn down so the new cathedral could be built. It took another 200 years to complete, and underwent frequent modifications over the centuries.

Desecrated during the French Revolution, by the early 19th century Notre Dame was crumbling and half-ruined inside. The crowning of Napoleon as emperor followed by the success of Victor Hugo’s Gothic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame focused attention on the building, prompting major restorations in the mid-19th century.

Excavations in front of the cathedral in the 1960s discovered buildings successively built on from antiquity — the dockside of ancient Lutecia, Gallo-Roman public baths, an early 4th century city wall — and this archaeological crypt is now a major tourist drawcard itself.

Notre Dame attracts 13 million visitors a year. It is also the heart of the Roman Catholic Church in Paris, and where the country celebrates the lives of its great and good.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you like the new committee structure brought in at Gisborne District Council?

    See also: Committee shake-up