Notre Dame de Paris' never ending run of bad luck
When the cornerstone of Notre Dame was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III and King Louis VII in 1163, they wanted the cathedral to signify Paris’ economic, intellectual, and cultural power. Although neither of them would live to see the end of its construction, the cathedral has unarguably become one of the most memorable landmarks of France, only surpassed by the Eiffel Tower.
Notre Dame has been through numerous revolutions and wars, sustaining wounds and damage to its structure and containing artwork on more than one occasion. Its survival through the years can be attributed to an elaborate design that incorporates six-part rib vaults distributing the weight of the building to the columns, thus providing stability. Flying buttresses supporting the structure from the outside ensures that no column is overburdened by weight. Furthermore, the design reduces the need for supporting walls, which paved the way for Notre Dame to have its iconic stained glass windows, lighting its interiors with more natural sunlight.
Each time the cathedral diminished to a dilapidated state, it saw a turn of fortunes. The building, in quite a dire state after the French Revolution, gave us glimpses of a resurgence when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France, with the emperor choosing to get crowned in the cathedral. Even when in danger of being demolished after the Napoleonic wars, the cathedral saw light at the end of a rather dark tunnel when Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris was published. The novel, released in 183, invigorated public interest in the structure, following which renovations resumed.
Notre Dame, 315ft in its prime and even taller in significance in our culture, is the setting of world-renowned musicals and even a Disney animation, in addition to the previously mentioned Victor Hugo novel. This iconic building drew 12 million people annually until disaster struck on the 15th of April 2019. Just before 18:20 CEST, a fire broke out in the cathedral’s attic. Millions of people watched one of the most architectural works of the previous millennium burn for 15 hours straight.
The blaze consumed most of the roof, the 19th-century spire, and extensively damaged the cathedral’s upper walls. Such is the cultural importance of the Notre Dame de Paris that it drew the interest and concern of people all over the world. Restoration works began immediately, with the cathedral expected to return to its former glory in the spring of 2024.