The Seeming Miracle Of Notre Dame Cathedral

In the dusk of a spring day the crown jewel of Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, seemed to appear as one enormous sheet of flame — pure destruction. But as the sun reluctantly rose in the sky some hours later, there proudly stood the massive stone edifice with little more missing than her cap.

Okay, so the middle steeple was lost in a dramatic flaming crash that took away the breath of many witnesses. That particular edifice, however, was an addition of the mid eighteen hundreds that most citizens of Paris at the time considered an abomination inflicted upon the most beautiful symbol of their romantic city. They would have considered the steeple’s demise a divine cleansing.

Moreover, we forget just how indestructible are these massive medieval cathedrals of Europe constructed of mighty stone blocks over hundreds of years, starting around the tenth and eleventh centuries. For instance there are pictures of the great cathedral of Cologne Germany standing tall among the ruins of a horrendous World War Two bombing attack. It had withstood the explosive concussions of dozens of nearby 500-pound bombs that rained down upon it.

The thing about the fire of Notre Dame that seemed to get temporality lost upon our minds is the basic fact of physics — heat rises. In other words, except for falling debris, one could likely stand on the floor, beneath the roof’s roaring inferno, and likely feel little more heat than standing in the sunlight of a midsummer’s day. Thus morning light revealed damage, only a few meters below the extreme height of the roofline, to be relatively negotiable with only moderate debris having fallen into the main sanctuary. This latter factor likely due to the efficient way in which the flames consumed the ancient roofing materials, the embers of which floated about the streets of the city.

Depending upon the urgency to repair the exquisite cover of Notre Dame, it might require as little as two years or as many as twenty years to fully restore the structure close to its former glory. A possible hold up of the project could occur should there be a big battle over whether to add back the center steeple. Fans of great architecture might resist the urge of average citizens who have come to love that late addition.

In any event, the hundreds of millions required for restoration seem to already be forthcoming from folks all around the world who value architectural and cultural beauty. Therefore, one way or the other, Notre Dame’s healing seems well assured.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!

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