Spira, Spera - Victor Hugo
April 15, 2019 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Notre-Dame de Paris, the French Gothic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in Paris, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, has burned in a conflagration unrivalled since at least WWII, started accidentally, perhaps in the renovation work. But "spira, spera" -- breathe, and hope -- there has been no loss of life, only one reported injury, and the shell of the building appears (at this hour) to have been saved. "Cette cathédrale, nous la rebâtirons," declares Emmanuel Macron. ("The Cathedral, we will rebuild it.")

Coverage at CNN -- The entire wooden structure holding up the roof is destroyed
Pictures at Le Monde
A stunning police drone photo of the flames from above
First public footage of firefighters entering the cathedral
Brief discussion from a firefighter about fighting this type of fire

Preliminary reports suggest that all of the stained glass is destroyed (which is typical once the roof collapses -- if they crashing of the roof doesn't get them, the intense heat causes them to explode), including the three rose windows dating from the 1200s, which survived centuries of wars and upheavals. The historic 18th-century organ is also almost certainly a total loss. But many metal statues were off-site for the renovation and have survived, and early reports from the cathedral treasury, including several important relics such as the alleged Crown of Thorns, are encouraging and suggest most were saved.

The cathedral's website, including history, art, etc. -- the cathedral's twitter
posted by Eyebrows McGee (278 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by cosmic owl at 3:38 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]




Watching the spire fall made me physically ill.

Thank you for creating a space for us to mourn in, Eyebrows.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:44 PM on April 15 [32 favorites]


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posted by sammyo at 3:45 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Devastating, and a profound loss.


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posted by nubs at 3:46 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


It appears that the inner stone vault has largely survived (other than where the spire fell through). It may take until morning to hear if the rose windows were damaged by the heat.
posted by stopgap at 3:46 PM on April 15 [13 favorites]


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posted by Pendragon at 3:47 PM on April 15


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posted by Gaz Errant at 3:47 PM on April 15


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posted by cooker girl at 3:48 PM on April 15


Seems frustrating Macron pledged to rebuild it, given that it is magnitudes more expensive than it would have been to maintain it in the first place, which the government showed no willingness to pay for before.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:49 PM on April 15 [31 favorites]


I grieve for the destruction of a wondrously beautiful historic building, for the Parisians who have lost a beloved landmark, and for myself, because I never got to visit Notre Dame. And as someone who loves, and works in, stained glass, I screamed inwardly when I read that the centuries-old stained glass windows exploded from the intense heat.
posted by orange swan at 3:49 PM on April 15 [19 favorites]


I saw Notre Dame as a teenager, stayed in a hotel blocks away. I'd get up every morning to go view how majestic the architecture was. So humbled to be in the presence of such an icon. I have been sick today seeing and hearing the news.
I learned when my dad called me over and over again when I was in a work meeting. I thought it was an emergency so left and called him back.
He typically calls me when a bad storm comes in (lives in a city East of me to give me a 'head's up'). I called him when Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas burned down and we both cried on the phone. Same thing with the death of my grandparents and late husband, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey... the list goes on. Nothing like hearing that sympathetic voice pick up. I was that to him today.
I realized how grateful I was to have someone who knew how big this was and wanted to share grief. Perhaps for this occasion I felt like it was just another sharing of grief with my dad, but now I sense multiple people around the world are really hurting with me...
posted by hillabeans at 3:53 PM on April 15 [24 favorites]


I had my shield up for the usual outrages but had no defense for this.
posted by acrasis at 3:53 PM on April 15 [23 favorites]


I'm 35 and not well-traveled, but working towards a future state in which being location independent and fiscally able to travel the world is my default state. This cathedral is so high up on my list of places to visit. I got this news in Slack right as I sat down at my desk at work this morning, and all day long I've been keeping tabs on the fire and the stories from France and locals there who are clearly suffering. This is a monumental loss for France, for Catholics, for lovers of history and art and architecture and beauty, for the whole planet.

I take some small amount of consolation in two things: One, there do not appear to be any fatalities. And two: the cathedral is so incredibly important to so many people around the globe, that I have faith that France and possibly many other countries / societies will come together to repair what can be repaired and rebuild what cannot.

Notre Dame remains high on my list, and I can't wait to see how we come together to restore this landmark. I grieve with everyone else mourning this tragedy, and look forward to seeing what good can be made of it.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:53 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Parisians singing to the cathedral as it burns
posted by donnagirl at 3:54 PM on April 15 [70 favorites]


The smaller rosettes above the north and south rose windows were in the attic above the stone vaults (below the wooden roof) and were clearly destroyed by the flames. I understand these dated to the 19th century restoration. The 13th-century west rose window (between the bell towers) and the north and south transept rose windows are all located below the interior stone vault. I've been following Twitter embarrassingly closely all day but I haven't seen anything showing that these have been destroyed, though they were clearly close to an intense fire for hours. The vault itself will have been significantly weakened from the fire and the damage at the central crossing.
posted by stopgap at 3:54 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I've long had a feeling the world is falling apart. This is a shocking conformation of it.

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posted by Bee'sWing at 3:54 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at. The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and kept watch over him. He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues in solitary conversation with it. If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
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posted by Fizz at 3:56 PM on April 15 [44 favorites]


I'm absolutely devastated by this news. My first trip outside the US was to Paris and on a Saturday morning we chanced across the Cathedral when they were having an ordination mass. On my next trip to Paris we climbed the 300 or 400 stairs to the top. At the time I thought the climb was a chore, now, today, I consider it a privilege. They may rebuild it, but it will never be the same.

The cathedral is not only the the history of the church or of the city, it is the history of western civilization.
posted by codex99 at 4:01 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


My wife and I spent a couple of days in Paris as part of our honeymoon. On one of the days we had an argument and decided to spend it on our own. I'm not sure what she did but I went to Notre Dame because apparently I really like gothic cathedrals (other ones visited in the trip include Glasgow Cathedral, Seville Cathderal, Cordoba Cathedral, and Sagrada Familia). I'm hoping we'll have the chance to go back and see the reconstructed version.

I lived in Kyoto for a couple of years. There are a lot of historic temples in Kyoto and most of them are not the original structure as those had been destroyed (usually burned down) at various times in the past. It just became a part of the temples' history. The new Notre Dame they will build may not be the original structure but it will still be Notre Dame.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:06 PM on April 15 [24 favorites]


Here are some topical things I've seen on twitter that I found engaging or informative, as someone surprised at how much I found myself caring about this building this morning

GreggFavre: talks about why it's so hard to fight a fire in a cathedral

Art work and holy relics are saved, because they were removed for the construction before this fire

maggiekb1: A long winding thread of how we ended up here talking about how the building ended up in a bad condition to begin with

grouchybagels: I know this doesn't help, but we have exquisite 3D laser maps of every detail of Notre Dame, thanks to the incredible work of @Vassar art historian Andrew Tallon. Prof Tallon passed away last November, but his work will be absolutely crucial (Historian Uses Lasers to Unlock Mysteries of Gothic Cathedrals)

eponawest: I took a survey course of Catholic cathedral architecture taught by a remarkably cynical former priest and on the first day of class he was like “of cathedrals have multiple dates for different parts, burning down is an essential part of the life cycle of Catholic architecture.”

Kyruer: "Today the world has probably lost 3 of the most beautiful stained glass windows ever made" and continues with more about what the structure was meant todo; the end talks about how the fire has stopped spreading and there are pictures of the state of the interior
posted by foxfirefey at 4:06 PM on April 15 [55 favorites]


There are some times, as a Catholic, when I revert back to the little girl I was who took my faith so seriously and had such awe and wonder for the Church. Today broke my heart. Something that is so Catholic—devoted to Our Mother, so finely and painstakingly made, lavish and beautiful, filled with relics like the crown of thorns—all things that many other faiths think is crazy or semi-pagan about Catholicism, and yet it was beloved by people all over the world.

My deepest sympathy to France and French Mefites. I can’t conceive of losing or seeing damaged such a long-standing heart of my country.

Salve Regina.
posted by sallybrown at 4:09 PM on April 15 [30 favorites]




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There are multiple city webcams that point to the Cathedral, and some where you can play back the last 24 hours. Somewhat surreal to watch just a regular day suddenly become such a cultural tragedy in only a few frames.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:10 PM on April 15 [13 favorites]


It appears that the inner stone vault has largely survived.

How did those seats and stuff survive? Watching the video, you’d think anything made of wood would be ashes. Those are wood seats behind the firefighter, right? That’s amazing.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:11 PM on April 15


For hope and rebuilding: PBS - Cathedral - David Macaulay (YT, about an hour.) It begins with a new cathedral, rising from the ashes of an old one, and traces the work of bringing these architectural miracles into the world.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:14 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


How did those seats and stuff survive?

The fire was of the timbers (something like 1300 oak trees went into its construction) and wooden roof above the stone vault (the ceiling, groin vaults, etc. that you see when looking up from inside). The principal construction is all stone, largely because medieval builders had lots of experience with destructive fires, and the roof is/was there to protect the stone vault from the elements.
posted by stopgap at 4:15 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


It looks like there's an inner, arched stone (brick?) ceiling under the peaked wooden roof. I think the drone pictures showing the embers of the roof inside the stone walls them resting on that inner ceiling, rather than on the floor of the cathedral.
posted by The Tensor at 4:18 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


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Although the organs of Notre Dame aren't among Cavaillé-Coil's best instruments, their loss is still tremendous. Here's a French documentary (with English subtitles) on the Great Organ that's well worth the watch.
posted by evoque at 4:18 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


To expand on the above, the drone photo of the flames shows that the fire was essentially entirely above the largely still-extant stone vault. The facade continues to rise above the level of the vault, creating an attic below the wooden roof. The fire appears to have been almost entirely contained to this attic. Apparently the firefighters were able to extinguish the burning spire after it fell to the floor of the cathedral before the fire spread inside.
posted by stopgap at 4:19 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


What a terrible situation and a huge cultural loss for France and all people of the world. I hope that they manage to recover some of the priceless artifacts inside the cathedral itself.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:21 PM on April 15


I am rarely moved to tears online, but the singing of “Ave Maria”—

I find myself wanting to spare a thought for whoever had the last clear chance to stop or remove the cause of the fire (assuming, as it seems, that it was an accident). Somewhere in the world tonight is someone coming to grips with the idea of having destroyed 850 years of history, and unless they are a truly negligent and monstrous person, it must be hell.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:24 PM on April 15 [29 favorites]


Some officials are sounding cautiously optimistic about damage to the interior. Among them are chief architect of historical monuments Philippe Villeneuve, who says "the treasure is saved" and that tomorrow an inventory will be taken of artworks in the chapels around the nave that may have been damaged by smoke and water.

A note about the spire which collapsed -- the original spire was removed in 1786 after centuries of wind damage and was replaced in the 1850s and '60s as part of a church-wide restoration effort.
posted by theory at 4:26 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]




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posted by Foosnark at 4:30 PM on April 15


beagle, those photos show candles still in sconces, which is so strange. How could they not melt?
posted by Countess Elena at 4:30 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


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posted by starman at 4:30 PM on April 15


There might be some hope for at least one of the rose windows
posted by Flitcraft at 4:35 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


beagle, those photos show candles still in sconces, which is so strange. How could they not melt?

Heat rises. It stays cool down there. Or, a miracle, if you prefer. In other news (down the page a bit):
Agence France-Presse reports that François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and CEO of international luxury group Kering, which owns brands like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen, has pledged 100 million euros towards rebuilding Notre-Dame, according to a statement.
A 100 million here, a 100 million there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. Maybe Gates, Bezos, Buffett et al could step up as well and just get this done.
posted by beagle at 4:35 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


Most of the "big tall candles" in cathedrals are casings made of wood, stone, or plastic. They are hollow and have a spring inside. You put a real candle inside such that the tip of the candle protudes and as it burns the spring pushes it up, keeping the flame at the top. The effect is a "tall candle with a constantly burning wick at a specific height."
posted by holyrood at 4:36 PM on April 15 [37 favorites]


So I think I've said this before but when I traveled to Europe several times as a young woman I never went to France because I didn't care about the Eiffel Tower or wine or anything else that my idiot brain thought of as "French". Finally I got an opportunity to go as an assistant for a Study Abroad program -- last minute, speaking almost no French at all, wildly unprepared. The country as a whole and particularly the city of Paris and its people bowled me over with their beauty and vibrancy and kindness and diversity (that one you won't hear much about in American tourist books) and ingeniousness and layer upon layer of history and tragedy and loss. Of course I went back. I'll go back again, as often as I can. I can't believe it took me so long to get there and Paris is unequivocally my favorite city I've been to.

Notre Dame is a tremendous lost -- it was the anchor for Paris, a massive testament to how much 'sense of place' one city can hold. It's really hard to encapsulate how much the cathedral was integrated into the city around it -- not just a relic or a historical monument but a beating heart. I've been to a few other churches in France which were damaged by fire or war and the restoration work they've done, integrating old and new, is absolutely beautiful. I'm sure it will rise back up spectacularly. But my heart hurts for Parisiens.
posted by WidgetAlley at 4:39 PM on April 15 [18 favorites]


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posted by k8bot at 4:42 PM on April 15


> Seems frustrating Macron pledged to rebuild it, given that it is magnitudes more expensive than it would have been to maintain it in the first place, which the government showed no willingness to pay for before.

It's always easier to get people to fund the construction of a building rather than its maintenance, because then they get to put their names on it.
posted by at by at 4:42 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


I was lucky enough to visit Notre-Dame with my wife about ten years ago, and I keep thinking about the emotion that washed over me walking through the doors and again climbing the steps. The feeling of walking into the main cathedral. And now I just keep thinking, this can't be real, this just can't be real...

posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:48 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Just seeing the freeze frames over the caption that the spires were falling — I couldn’t watch the videos — felt like watching the towers fall on 9/11.

I have been there a few times, but it’s affecting me all out of proportion. And in Holy Week, too: my last visit was in 1992 just days before Easter.

As a Catholic, as a lover of art and built things, as someone with people I care about in Paris, and just as a citizen of this world, I grieve.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:51 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


My niece posted on FaceBook that she was set to visit in the very near future it now she’d never get the chance, and that hurt, too. I told her to go see Sainte-Chapelle instead, but still.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:53 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I really do not have the words. I cried when I saw the spire collapse this afternoon.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:53 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


A couple of decades back, I was stationed in Germany and a couple of friends were living in Paris. I went to visit, and of course I went to the hallowed Shakespeare & Company, where I proceeded to buy a copy of each PG Wodehouse book they had — I think a dozen. For whatever reason, I didn’t get a bag; I stuffed the pockets of my trench coat (which I had purchased the evening before) with them.

I stepped outside, my friend laughing at my ridiculous bulging coat, into a cool French autumn day, and looked over at Notre Dame. I’ve always loved having that one perfect, unique moment, but knowing that it can truly never happen again hurts more than I would have imagined.

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posted by Etrigan at 4:57 PM on April 15 [20 favorites]


Almost literally the heart of France: the entrance to Notre Dame is Kilometer Zero.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:04 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


Last time I was in Paris I was at Notre Dame and decided not to go inside because I was a bit over crowds at the time. I recall thinking "eh, it'll be there next time I'm here."

Lesson learned.

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posted by pompomtom at 5:05 PM on April 15 [22 favorites]


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I stood in line to climb the towers back in 2011. It was so worth the wait too. So sad about what has happened to that beautiful landmark.
posted by weathergal at 5:06 PM on April 15


I’m cautiously optimistic after the interior photos so far. If they can prevent anything else from collapsing in the coming days, I would expect that the cathedral could reopen within 10 years, but it will probably be a multi-billion-euro effort. Replacing the roof will pale in comparison to the cost and difficulty of restoring structural integrity.
posted by stopgap at 5:11 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


My best professor told our class 32 years ago that the potential destruction of Angkor Wat during the Vietnam war was on par with that of Notre Dame, the Western Wall or the Kaaba.


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posted by brujita at 5:12 PM on April 15 [16 favorites]


“Ancient buildings are so much more than just buildings. They outlive generations, shaping our cultural identities as well as our landscapes. They watch over us, fixed and constant, while we get caught up in the minutiae of our short lives.”

— Francesca Stavrakopoulou
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:13 PM on April 15 [20 favorites]


I was there Thursday. I feel like devasted and grateful at the same time. We went back and forth about a souvenir and settled on a little rose window sun-catcher, which seems to be the most precious thing now. This is just so surreal.
posted by Biblio at 5:14 PM on April 15 [22 favorites]


If you are video-game inclined, Assassin’s Creed: Unity replicates Notre Dame in gorgeous detail, which you can climb all over. It’s Paris during the Revolution so the cathedral is being used mainly as a storehouse and much of the gilding has been stripped, but the light and space are still captured very well. You don’t have to play very far into the game - Paris opens up after you escape the Bastille.
posted by um at 5:17 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


"Each face, each stone of the venerable monument is a page, not only of the history of the country, but of the history of science and art...The man, the artist, the individual disappear in those great masses without the author's signature; human intelligence is summarized and totalized in them. Time is the architect, the town is the mason. "
- Victor Hugo
posted by dnash at 5:18 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


The first time I went to Notre Dame, which was in 2002, was such a lovely day. On top of the beauty of it, they were constructing a huge chocolate Eiffel Tower in the courtyard facing it. I have no idea why but everywhere I went in Paris, things were like this. I would go to the Louvre and run into a class of deaf school children in court marly. I would go to Sacre Coeur and walk in as the nuns started singing.

I used to say I'm an atheist everywhere but Paris. In Paris I believe in God.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:25 PM on April 15 [27 favorites]


Even if the interior was mostly saved, the wood frame of the roof structure is itself a terrible loss.

The oak beams that formed an intricate criss-cross structure supporting the lead roof were hewn from trees that were hundreds of years old when they were felled in the 1160s. They were first used to build a frame in the choir and then were re-used for a reconfigured roof structure built around 1220 that lasted until today. Each beam was taken from a single tree, and it's estimated that over 13,000 trees were felled for the job. Medieval carpenters built the roof structure on the ground first to make sure it was properly engineered, then disassembled it and hoisted the beams up above the vault for reassembly.

Here's a clip from the French show 13h15 that was filmed only a couple months ago inside the roof structure. It's noted that electricity was not being used during the ongoing renovation in order to avoid the danger of fire.
posted by theory at 5:26 PM on April 15 [44 favorites]


Terrible, but I can't help but be glad this wasn't much, much worse.
posted by reductiondesign at 5:28 PM on April 15


If the stone vault (what you see when you look up inside the cathedral) had fallen then at least the upper walls would have fallen inwards, as the ceiling is an integral part of the structure whereas the roof is primarily to keep things dry.
posted by Rumple at 5:30 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I was there in 2008. I didn’t go inside - I don’t believe I could go inside, there was construction of some sort if I recall correctly. Barriers preventing us from getting too close. But I took pictures, at dusk, of the facade and the towers.

I am sad that I can’t see it again the way I saw it then - but I am glad I saw it then.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:33 PM on April 15


If I had to be honest and you held a gun to my head, other things about Paris captured my attention more. But it's still part of what "Paris" means to me - a stroll along the Seine one afternoon and catching sight of Notre Dame during the golden hour and grabbing a quick picture because of course, and then returning a couple days later for a more proper visit. I didn't climb to the roof because it was closed (I was there on New Years' Day), but I saw the rose window and some of the chapel treasures. The ceiling also caught my eye; it was stained with soot, and I thought a lot about just how long and from how many years of candles that soot buildup had accumulated. I also caught a shot of some ordinary parishioners trying to pray in the cathedral, trying to ignore us tourists. And then afterward I wandered into a tiny cafe next to Shakespeare and Company and studied Notre Dame out the window while I ate the best meal I'd had that whole trip for lunch.

Paris is a city I've fallen hard for, more for who I am when I'm there; it's a city that taught me that I needed to actually embrace life while I'm living it. I'd been getting really ascetic - by necessity, as I went through some rough and lean years - but Paris draws me out of myself a little; encourages me to eat the chocolate now instead of saving it for later, because if you save it for later it may not last. It's the Gallic take on the Japanese concept of mono no aware. Notre Dame may trend towards the more pious side of life, but it's still part of the tapestry of Paris.

Tonight, tucked into my refrigerator was some really good butter I'd gotten as part of a goodie bag from this French cheese course in Soho I'd signed up for about a year ago. I'd been saving it for a dinner party or something, but tonight I picked up a bottle of wine and a loaf of good bread on the way home, cracked out that butter, and I made myself some tartiflette for dinner (a dish that the Parisian Mefites introduced me to when we all went out to a bistro). That golden hour picture of Notre Dame is on my wall, and I toasted it with my first glass, and I plan on drinking as much of the bottle as I can tonight; this is a sadder take on Paris' lesson to gather my rosebuds while I may.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 PM on April 15 [31 favorites]


My father is Parisian but I am fundamentally an American girl. He and I have a so-so relationship and there was always a chasm between me and the French family and France in general. When I was fourteen, I went to Paris and saw Notre Dame for the first time, and as wonderful as the cathedral was, I felt like an interloper in France and in a church.

But while I was in France, I picked up Notre Dame de Paris. I identified so much with Quasimodo. It resonated with me that he haunted this beautiful place that he loved even though he could never belong to it. Notre Dame became a symbol of France to me, like the version of France that I could haunt even if I was an eternal interloper.

It devastates me to see Notre Dame destroyed. Yes, it will be rebuilt. But its rootedness, that its stone and wood and glass watched over the city for centuries -- that matters, too, and that's probably gone.

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posted by rue72 at 5:35 PM on April 15 [13 favorites]


I was lucky enough to visit Notre Dame twice in 2016. After finishing a year of cancer treatment in February, I took my mom on her first trip outside of the US, mostly to London, but we took the Eurostar and spent a day and a night in Paris. I’d never been there before and honestly, the thought of seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame with my own two eyes got me through those last months of treatment. I cried as we walked across the bridge over the Seine.

I made my husband go back to Paris for Christmas that year. We were walking across the Ile de la Cite and got caught up in an alley that was closed for security screening into the grounds of the cathedral. We hadn’t intended to go because it was so busy, but decided to stay, and ended up inside just as the afternoon mass was starting. I’m not Christian, but hearing Adeste Fideles on Christmas Eve inside Notre Dame...I’ve not experienced anything more magical.

I thought of not sharing my experiences because they’re so minor in the grand scheme. I’m not French or Catholic or even a frequent traveler to France. But I think what touches my heart so much today is to see how much this place means to people who have only had the briefest glancing experiences there. For me, imagining the city and the country and the whole of modern Western civilization rising up while the cathedral sat there for 800 years is absolutely awe-inspiring.

I’m so heartened by the recent pictures showing that much of the interior might be intact. Hope.
posted by something something at 5:39 PM on April 15 [25 favorites]


a note from Wikipedia: The Cathedral's flèche or spire, which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire,[30] was located over the transept and altar. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, probably between 1220 and 1230. It was battered, weakened and bent by the wind over five centuries, and finally was removed in 1786. During the 19th century restoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc decided to recreate it, making a new version of oak covered with lead. The entire spire weighed 750 tons.
posted by mecran01 at 5:43 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Perotin's Viderunt Omnes for those who need some music for mourning, or for gratitude at what wasn't lost.

Perotin was one of the best known composers of the Notre Dame school of polyphony (late 1100s- mid 1200s). "Best known" in this case means we have a handful of works with his name on them and a few passing mentions in other written sources from the time. "Oh yeah, who doesn't know Magister Perotinus? We've all rocked out to his Viderunt and Sederunt!" They didn't bother to explain who he was; eveyone knew. And now no one knows.

Perotin's identity is lost, his life story, his origins, his family. Time took everything except his music. We have some of that, saved from the relentless river that will erode us all. While you and I and it are here, let's gather and listen.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:44 PM on April 15 [50 favorites]


Last September I took a spur-of-the-moment trip with friends to Paris. We had gone out clubbing in the Marais and left around 2 or 3 in the morning. We decided to walk back to our apartment in the 5th arrondissement even though it was so late, because we were in that rare post-clubbing euphoric haze that has become increasingly rare as I've gotten older. (Now I mostly just get tired, but I digress!)

We decided to cross the Seine by way of the Ile de la Cité on the way back and passed in front of Notre-Dame. I'd been fortunate enough to have gone to Paris before and had visited Notre-Dame several times, but I'd never seen the courtyard in front of it so calm (there was basically no one else around) and it lured us to just sit there for a couple of minutes and ponder the cathedral and its majesty. And then because I am American and grew up with Disney films, I found the Bells of Notre Dame song from the Disney film and played it just as the two of us sat, virtually alone in that large square in the middle of the night.

I hope this doesn't come across as an irreverent memory (we certainly didn't attempt to do anything stupid or foolish like climb over gates or anything), but it's my fondest recollection of Notre-Dame, and maybe so fond because it's so rare to be in a spot like that in a big city and feel like you have it all to yourself.
posted by andrewesque at 5:45 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


. It's really hard to encapsulate how much the cathedral was integrated into the city around it -- not just a relic or a historical monument but a beating heart.

I have never felt such heartbreak at the loss of an inanimate object before, but then, Notre Dame is hardly inanimate, is it?
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:50 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


Part of me is awash in the sense of incalculable loss of art, history and culture that was wrapped up in the building. Especially for France, but also for the world.

Honestly, even if everything had survived intact, the very fact that there was a fire at all at Notre Dame is a brutal assault on the world’s psyche.

As the French look to rebuild, a still small part of me also aches at knowing that all things, even the great and glorious edifices, will one day succumb to these ravages time and fire. As we all must. Ashes to ashes...
posted by darkstar at 5:55 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Back in 1991, I had ten days in Paris to teach a class for Apple. They got me a room at the Hotel Notre Dame right across the river from the cathedral. I was in a small top floor garret like room with a small dormer window that looked out at the cathedral. Every morning, the first thing I did was stand and look out that window. It was the view. Real, but so steeped in history and romance that it was hard to believe it was real. Seeing the images today of the fire made me cry. It’s not just a building. It’s a beautiful focal point of the history of millions of people. When I was there I lit a candle, and I am not a Christian. It didn’t matter. Though one small flame can be engulfed by these huge flames, maybe it will be back and the history will continue.
posted by njohnson23 at 5:57 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this is affecting me in ways I am surprised to feel.

.
posted by salt grass at 5:59 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


We visited Paris in October of 2003 and saw Notre Dame on a wet morning. The gray skies made the largely unlit space all the more dark and mysterious, fitting of its Gothic exterior. I hope to return to Paris some day; perhaps by then the damage will have been repaired and the city of Paris made whole again.
posted by briank at 6:04 PM on April 15


After seeing the photos of the interior I too am cautiously optimistic -- if the wooden pulpit survived the fire (which you think would burn if anything would), it bodes well for much of the interior. But we're seeing the western end, and it looks like the eastern end was damaged much more badly.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:04 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]




It's just "stuff" but I feel terrible. Glad no one was killed.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:06 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


.⛪️

I hope that in time this fire becomes just a historical footnoted paragraph in the centuries of history of a grand building. "In 2019, Notre Dame was partially destroyed by fire. With mass public support, restorations were completed after mumblemumble years in 2XXX."
posted by nicebookrack at 6:06 PM on April 15 [12 favorites]


Having read Seveneves and weeping at the Moment I Shall Not Spoil at That Part of the book, this brought the same wave of feelings over me.
posted by nikaspark at 6:08 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


I found this quote from Douglas Adams especially helpful today:
“I remembered once, in Japan, having been to see the Gold Pavilion Temple in Kyoto and being mildly surprised at quite how well it had weathered the passage of time since it was first built in the fourteenth century. I was told it hadn’t weathered well at all, and had in fact been burnt to the ground twice in this century. “So it isn’t the original building?” I had asked my Japanese guide.
“But yes, of course it is,” he insisted, rather surprised at my question.
“But it’s burnt down?”
“Yes.”
“Twice.”
“Many times.”
“And rebuilt.”
“Of course. It is an important and historic building.”
“With completely new materials.”
“But of course. It was burnt down.”
“So how can it be the same building?”
“It is always the same building.”
I had to admit to myself that this was in fact a perfectly rational point of view, it merely started from an unexpected premise. The idea of the building, the intention of it, its design, are all immutable and are the essence of the building. The intention of the original builders is what survives. The wood of which the design is constructed decays and is replaced when necessary. To be overly concerned with the original materials, which are merely sentimental souvenirs of the past, is to fail to see the living building itself.”
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:11 PM on April 15 [239 favorites]


scaryblackdeath, I have found Douglas Adams to be pertinent and consoling a lot in the last couple of years. Thanks for that excerpt.
posted by salt grass at 6:16 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


nikaspark, I thought about Fire Watch by Connie Willis. "Nothing is saved forever." And now I'm crying.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:20 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


On our last night in Paris, we had decided not to book a hotel and just walk around all night seeing what the city had to offer. It turns out there's not much to do on a Monday night, so we ended up in a cafe watching Scooby-Doo on our tablet and fighting to stay awake. When dawn finally came, we stumbled across Ile de la Cité and found her all alone in the rising sun, our own private sanctuary.
We had seen her a couple weeks prior, crawling with tourists as usual. There was a croissant competition going on and we ate the winners in the shadow of her right facade. My favorite feeling when traveling is "this is just like in the books/movies" and Notre Dame was delivering big time. The towers, the bells, the gargoyles, the carbs, pigeons and pretty ladies everywhere, huge Paris feelings there.
When we sat there watching the light slide across her face in the zombie dawn, she was so much smaller, quiet and peaceful. Not like the movies anymore, but warm and familiar like my hometown church. I remember feeling so lucky to have made it there, in that moment and with that person.
I've been bawling about this dumb church all day, and I think what I'm feeling is overwhelming gratitude for having experienced it and immense sadness for all those (like my mom) who have been dreaming of Paris their whole life but won't get to see Notre Dame like I did.
posted by Freyja at 6:26 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


J.S. Bach : Toccata and fuga in d minor at Notre Dame de Paris

Bach @ Notre Dame de Paris Pipe Organ: Vierne Plays - from 1929 no less.

Sorry, the one time the landlord came knocking to tell me to turn down the music... it was window rattling organ gloriousness. To me, it will count as a life lost should that be fate.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:33 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


My sister was there for Palm Sunday mass yesterday, and went back today (Monday) for souvenirs only four hours before the news broke. Crazy.
posted by notsnot at 6:33 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


.
posted by misslucyjane at 6:37 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


All the French newspapers seem to be asleep (it's 3:30 a.m. there), so little current news. But Agence France-Presse reports that the façade, the two towers, and the stone structure are "saved and completely preserved". Operations will continue through the night.
Vers 22h50, les "deux tours de Notre-Dame [étaient] sauvées" et sa structure "sauvée & préservée dans sa globalité", mais les opérations devaient continuer toute la nuit, a indiqué le commandant de la Brigade des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris
posted by zompist at 6:37 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


I've also been surprised at how sad I am about this. I assume I'm crying about history and beauty and mortality, and the loss (or near loss) of a thing that's witnessed the best of humanity and survived the worst and that is supposed to still be doing so long after we're all gone.
posted by Ragini at 6:42 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I've been there twice, once in 2007 and again in 2012, both visits with deep personal meaning for very different reasons. I'm glad to have people share coverage and information here so I don't have to see the pictures. I simply can't look. Saw one picture of the falling spire on the NYT site and noped out of news websites for the rest of the day.
posted by potrzebie at 6:44 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Thank you, scaryblackdeath, for that Adams quote.

Exactly what was needed (and flagged as fantastic).
posted by darkstar at 6:52 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


My SO IM'd me at around 1.30ish with 'notre dame is burning', and I had that sinking feeling. I kept it there, distant, as an emotion, until I went to class tonight - a survey of the Carolingian Empire. There, my professor showed up with red-rimmed eyes, and looked at me and choked out 'It's a bad day to be a medievalist', and the class had a long, sobering discussion about what we lose when we lose anything, especially an artifact, from the past, and what things from the past mean to us in the present, and what we could still learn from them, and if it seems that I'm rambling, it's because I've had too much to drink because Notre Dame burned today. I kept asking people 'Did tihe rose windows survive?' because all I could think of was the importance of St.Denis (actually pseudo-Dionysius, but wtf-ever) and the new theology of light and everything is horrible now, and I should just get used to it. It's too much. When everything else was falling apart, I had my work, and now Notre Dame is in flames and people are taking razors to manuscripts for illuminated initials, and blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas, and the looting of the Iraqi museum and I'm just fuckin' gutted. I can't do this anymore.
posted by eclectist at 6:59 PM on April 15 [42 favorites]


The mandate of my vocation is to provide access (for today) and to preserve access (for the future). So it is perhaps unsurprising that the impossible task of preservation--against truly terrible odds when you're talking about centuries as your timespan--has been on my mind from the moment I saw the first headlines.

I am so glad that no one was killed but I am also terribly glad that the art and sculptures were mostly packed away and that the interior seems likely to survive in some form. It could be so much worse.

The other thing I can't get out of my mind is that it's almost Easter. It should be a beautiful time in Paris and a busy but happy time at Notre Dame. Easter Mass is truly something to be experienced in that grand old edifice. I know there will be other Easters, but I mourn a little for this one.

Also: thanks, Eyebrows, for a very solid post.
posted by librarylis at 7:05 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


I'm having a vastly different reaction. In my catholic church we used to hang a phoenix banner for Easter, and seeing the spire fall was pure catharsis.

I am mad at the hierarchy of the church for enabling the worst in people and then shielding them from consequences. I'm a Christmas and Easter Catholic, leading the bell choir at my church, but I haven't taken communion in years. I seriously was thinking that I need to give up the bells now because the church doesn't deserve my talents. I pour myself bell arrangements that will create a joyful sound to add to the mass. No matter where my faith is, I know there is a sense to the universe when I make music, and I have been debating if I can, in good conscience, keep doing it when everyone in charge is so utterly awful.

I hope that seeing Notre Dame burn shook every guilty priest and nun to their core. I hope every single of those people that helped cover up atrocities that killed babies and children and scarred souls saw it for the sign from God that it was.

When I watched the cathedral burn today, I saw a chance for us to rebuild into something better.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:08 PM on April 15 [39 favorites]


I took my mom on a retirement trip to Paris, as a compromise destination less fraught than Rome but still packed with churches. I'm glad she got to see the cathedral before it burned.

(Assuming he was telling a story, Douglas Adams was just alluding to the ancient conundrum, first reported by Plutarch, of the ship of Theseus....)
posted by praemunire at 7:24 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


My late grandparents used to live in/near-ish Paris, decades ago, and so when we visited we’d go see Notre Dame and then get some ice cream (Berthillon!) the next island over, or vice versa. Eventually they moved to the US, but then we moved to Europe — I think the last time I was there was for a high school trip, and we didn’t go inside. Paris is only a few hours away by TGV, and I always thought to myself it’d be nice to go back as an adult and see all the sights with an adult’s eyes (or maybe a child’s eyes, again) — especially that beautiful stained glass. But I figured I had plenty of time to get around to it.

My mother and I were having dinner when I (rudely) checked my phone and saw a message from a friend about it. Went straight to the TV and we were watching as the spire collapsed. My mother commented that it’s a good thing this happened after my grandmother passed away last month because as a former resident and the family’s most devout Catholic, she would have been absolutely distraught.

I’m grateful there were almost no injuries and the damage might not be as bad as first thought, but thinking about that spire still makes me teary.

I hope the injured firefighter makes a full recovery.
posted by bettafish at 7:24 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Paris is one of my favourite places in the world, and I am incredibly fortunate to have had multiple opportunities to visit. On a recent trip to Paris, my partner and I were waffling about whether we should stand in the long (LONG) lineup to climb up to the top of the cathedral; in the end, we did. It was the first (and now will be the last) time I had done so, though I had been inside the cathedral a couple of times. It was astonishing and I am so grateful to have been able to experience that.

This was the first news story I read this morning, and it took a moment for my brain to comprehend. It has made me sad all day, every time I remembered that Notre Dame was burning.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:01 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid, we had a transparent rendition of one of the rose windows taped to the window over our kitchen sink. It was, I believe, a souvenir from my mother’s post college grand tour, in 1958, and I loved it. I was so happy to see the real thing and looking forward to a return trip when I go to Paris this June. Tears.
posted by carmicha at 8:02 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I hope that seeing Notre Dame burn shook every guilty priest and nun to their core.

I have to confess I also wondered whether this event might be read by many Catholics, mired in one of their greatest scandals, as a kind of divine intervention to get rid of the old ways. And I am the furthest thing from religious.

And as an archaeologist, every building has a biography. If they fix this in the old manner that will be cool. If they put a glass roof on it that will be cool. If they get Frank Gehry (if he is still alive) to put a zinc-titanium roof on it, I can get behind that. This is a rite of passage for so many of the greatest monuments. The pyramids used to be shiny white, as did West Kennet long barrow. The Coliseum had sun-shades. New Coventry Cathedral is as cool as the restored one in Cologne. Ruins are often valued more highly than the buildings they devolve from.

But as a father who was in Notre Dame many times last summer with my daughter to hear organ recitals, it is really heartbreaking to think it will be so long before that place echoes again, it really was a gigantic instrument of sound and light and a happy time for the two of us.
posted by Rumple at 8:04 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


This is horrible news! You don’t need to be Catholic, or even Christian at all to see this with a sense of loss.I am again glad my mother did not live to see this. She had a particular love for France and the French people. She was very proud of the French part of our family tree and would have been heart - broken.
I take some comfort in the fact no people died and that at least some relics and things were not in there because of the restoration work. They can rebuild some. I am sure many will help with this. The workmanship of these times is not on a par with Medieval workmanship though.
Also a fire broke out in part of the Al Aksa Mosque. It was put out quickly though.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:09 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


To avoid abusing the edit window... Did anyone else attempt to see if Nostradamus predicted this event?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:11 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Sure! Here you go!
Nothing in the world can one imagine beforehand, not the least thing, everything is made up of so many unique particulars that cannot be forseen.
Eerie isn't it?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:20 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Here are a couple more good Twitter threads:

CZEdwards: "And now we have less of that in the world. We have one less place where we can look and see the chisel marks made by someone unknown, a thousand years ago."


Incunabula
: "We are witnessing a tragedy and a catastrophe unfolding. Notre Dame, the symbol of Paris, and one of the great icons of French history, is engulfed in a out of control fire, which has now spread across the entire roof. We are losing Notre Dame."
posted by homunculus at 8:20 PM on April 15




I took one look at the flames going up the spire and into the sky in that picture carried by the Guardian, and said to myself "huh, these really are the end times."
posted by jamjam at 8:23 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


The burning of a great stone book (Alexandra Petri, WaPo)
A great book is burning, one of the greatest ever written.

That an edifice like Notre Dame Cathedral could survive so much and then, in an instant, by accident, be engulfed in flames and devastated in a matter of hours causes, in 2019, a sensation that is at once harrowing and dully familiar. We assume that things are durable because they have lasted. But in the words of G. K. Chesterton (words that always occur to me at such moments) “to be breakable is not the same thing as to be perishable. Strike a glass and it will not endure an instant; simply do not strike it, and it will endure a thousand years.”

“A vast symphony in stone,” wrote Victor Hugo of Notre Dame in his novel of the same name. “The colossal work of a man and of a nation," he continued, "combining unity with complexity, like the Iliads and the Romanceros to which it is a sister production; the prodigious result of a draught upon the whole resources of an era -- in which upon every stone is seen displayed, in a hundred varieties, the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist -- a sort of human Creation, in short, mighty and prolific as the Divine Creation, of which it seems to have caught the double character, variety and eternity.”

Yet, strangely, Hugo’s contention was that the book had killed the cathedral. The cathedral had been the form for the preservation of human thought for centuries. “In those ages, whoever was born a poet,” Hugo wrote, “became an architect.”
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:37 PM on April 15 [18 favorites]


I hope that whatever the plans for near-term restoration turn out to be, the French government at least considers planting an oak forest to be harvested in ~2400 for the proper new roof.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:38 PM on April 15 [38 favorites]


This was the first thing that greeted me this morning, an friend on Facebook, an art professor who’d spent part of last year in France, mourning the fire.

I’ve never been to Europe, let alone Paris, but I’ve always wanted, low key, to get over there. The low key was the belief that the things that are there, that I’ve always wanted to see, well, they’re always there, it can wait a bit longer, and now I see the error of that.

And beyond that, even just my internal, overwhelming sorrow, it surprises me. I didn’t know, after everything that has happened over the last few years, and the gradual leeching of meaning and purpose from the world, that an event like this could still affect me as powerfully as this has. The world has grown ugly enough, it is a goddamn shame to lose any remaining beauty left to us, let alone something as grand as this.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:51 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


This is twisting my gut, but as the day goes on I have been thinking about that lead roof. And the lead in the stained glass. And I think I read today that the spire was wood and lead. And the firefighters. And the water dousing the flames. The losses of the architecture and artifacts are tragic. I hope the French government acts to prevent it from becoming a tragic health event as well.
posted by janell at 8:52 PM on April 15 [12 favorites]


There’s a lot of thoughts I think I’m thinking right now, as a Catholic. I am thinking of the work of men’s hands, of stones carved by men, generation after generation, raised to exalt the holiness of God as well as imperfect men could. Giving the greatest of themselves - giving the best of themselves to the work God wanted them to do. I think of it being preserved for centuries as a shining light.

And I think of Notre Dame, the result of all this work, at risk of being utterly destroyed because of a generation’s carelessness. I think of the fact that we can never rest secure in our world, in our faith, that it is a constant battle. That things do not last without people preserving them. That we all, lazily, thought it would always be there. That we all, often, think beautiful and important things and work will be there without us preserving them - or without us sacrificing to preserve them. I think - let me be honest here - about the insignificance of my Lenten rice bowl, which received my extra rather than my intentionality.

And I think of firefighters, desperately working against time and and nature. I think of people in the streets of Paris, singing Ave Maria, prayerfully, mournfully, with hope in their hearts and awareness, suddenly, of the ephemerality of anything built by man. And I think of the fact that so much was saved, when everyone thought it might all be lost. Not without a cost - we have lost stained glass that can never be recovered. We have lost architecture our grandfathers’ grandfathers were inspired by. But not everything of value was lost, because people reached up to do the best they could to shine.

I think of how it is possible to redeem things even when they seem their darkest. And it /is/ Holy Week, so I think of the Tenebrae service - the slow extinguishing of candles, the darkness, the silence. And then I think of - later in the week - the light.

I know there are other reasons to feel things about this, and I don’t want to imply mine is the right way. But these are the thoughts I’m musing right now. I imagine they’ll evolve further.
posted by corb at 9:00 PM on April 15 [26 favorites]


It's so important to conserve masterpieces of human achievement, of all forms.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:23 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


My dad, a severely lapsed Catholic-turned-atheist, and I used to talk about whether all the art inspired by religion was worth all the suffering and death it causes.
posted by carmicha at 9:27 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Perotin's identity is lost, his life story, his origins, his family. Time took everything except his music. We have some of that, saved from the relentless river that will erode us all. While you and I and it are here, let's gather and listen.

Thanks: that was quite wonderful.

There is an Irish saying that everything will perish, but music and love will endure. Seems unusually appropriate today.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:33 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


I am not Catholic. I no longer even believe in their God. But as someone deeply interested in Medieval European history I’ve been following this all day, feeling certain that only the shell would have survived.

But now the photos. The vault held. The altar gleams, somehow.

And I hope, I hope, that even if it just a couple of priests in hard hats ministering to a few firefighters while others keep watch - I hope someone celebrates a Mass inside the Cathedral on Easter Sunday. To celebrate resurrection.
posted by anastasiav at 9:36 PM on April 15 [18 favorites]


With the dawn, the south rose window appears to be intact.

And from a news story: “Michel Picaud, from the Friends of Notre Dame organization responsible for the renovation efforts, told NBC News that, to his knowledge, the church's organ and stained glass windows were not damaged.”
posted by stopgap at 9:52 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]




That account (thanks, stopgap!) has some amazing pictures (by Agnes Poirier).

Like this one.

The roof is gone, but the structure is saved. (There's got to be a lot of debris on top of the vaults, though.)
posted by zompist at 10:10 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


“Michel Picaud, from the Friends of Notre Dame organization responsible for the renovation efforts, told NBC News that, to his knowledge, the church's organ and stained glass windows were not damaged.”

I will literally cry if they're all right; so much medieval stained glass was lost to WWI and WWII, and Notre Dame's rose windows are among the most beautiful ever made. So much of a cathedral can be rebuilt and remade, but intact medieval windows would have been such an unbearably devastating loss. I will go to bed with all my fingers crossed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:10 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


That account (thanks, stopgap!) has some amazing pictures (by Agnes Poirier).

Like this one.


scaffolding's looking good
posted by philip-random at 10:18 PM on April 15


“Why don’t they make the whole church out scaffolding?” is the new “Why don’t they make the whole plane out of black-box?”
posted by stopgap at 10:19 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


My dad, a severely lapsed Catholic-turned-atheist, and I used to talk about whether all the art inspired by religion was worth all the suffering and death it causes.

I dispute the premise. It's not a zero-sum game.

Religion has inspired some of the most beautiful artwork and music people have ever produced. The art symbolizes the farthest and highest aspirations of humanity. "Ideals are like the stars; we cannot reach them, but oh, how we profit from their presence!"

Religion as also inspired the worst atrocities that people have committed against other people. George Carlin: "The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable. It depends on who’s doin the killin’ and who’s gettin’ killed."

It's not a trade-off. It's all part of humanity, the best and the worst. You can't choose one or the other.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:20 PM on April 15 [12 favorites]


[Gently, let me suggest we skip the general "religion, bad or good" and in particular, "religion, bad" sidebars in this thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:24 PM on April 15 [27 favorites]


I don't know much about cathedrals in general or Notre Dame in particular, but the organ and the stained glass seem like some of the most difficult things to repair/replace. If they survived, that's wonderful news.
posted by biogeo at 10:27 PM on April 15


I was lucky enough not to hear about this until the news improved (i.e. damage less than first feared, many artefacts already offsite) not that that greatly lessens the loss. As someone who has always lived in or around a historic city and taken it for granted, I'm finding myself motivated to become a tourist in my own back yard and go see all the stuff that I've assumed will always be there, in case it won't.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:33 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


There's a Twitter thread about the disaster protocol that was in place (save the people, then save the art ...) that states that there are oaks at Versailles in readiness for just this sort of thing. I hope that's accurate, that would be a bit of forethought that I would not have credited humans for having.
posted by rewil at 10:34 PM on April 15 [28 favorites]


Katjusa Roquette: They can rebuild some. I am sure many will help with this. The workmanship of these times is not on a par with Medieval workmanship though.

Seems as good a reason as any for young people to learn.

rewil: ... that there are oaks at Versailles in readiness for just this sort of thing. I hope that's accurate

It wouldn't surprise me. People used to think ahead. But you can't cut them down and use them right away. They would need to dry for years. Oh well, there is time. It's not like the thing was built in a year, it won't be rebuilt in a year either.

I'm not French, I'm not Catholic, and I don't have any good Notre-Dame stories to share here. It still hurts. I can't stand to look at the pictures or videos.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:57 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Emily Hughes: "it feels futile, in the midst of something massive, to say "here is my small connection to that thing," like your connection means nothing in the face of Big Cultural Significance, but what is cultural significance if not the sum total of myriad personal connections"
posted by nicebookrack at 11:04 PM on April 15 [23 favorites]


This summary from Slate seems to be a good inventory of the damage (and what's still there, which is considerable).

Some quotes from Le Monde:

"Some details on the windows of the cathedral. Some of them exploded from the effects of the heat, but the large rose window on the south, facing the Seine, a true masterpiece of the 13th century, seems to have been preserved."

...

"The main structure is saved but there remains much instability. The situation is still precarious. Tonight, two thirds of the roof went up in smoke, the spire crashed into the interior, creating a hole in the vault. The crossing of the transept collapsed, as well as a large part of the north transept.

"Teams of firemen and architects on the scene are worried because above the vault, there is still water, there is carbonized wood engorged with water, forming a huge weight. All that is very fragile and the vault is made with such delicacy that a part collapses, that carries a risk of disturbing the integrity of the construction."
posted by zompist at 11:40 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


Two pieces of good news:

There are reports that at least two of the three large rose windows are intact this morning. Le Monde journalist Christophe Ayad says that many of the upper stained glass windows exploded in the fire's heat, but the large south rose that faces the Seine (known as the Rose du Midi) appears to have been preserved. This video from earlier this morning seems to provide corroboration. Other photos of the west-facing facade seem to show the oldest of the rose windows (dating to 1225) also seems to be intact.

Also France24 is now reporting that most of the structure appears to be safe. Overnight there had been fears that heat-weakened masonry in the vault and waterlogged debris could lead to catastrophic collapse.
posted by theory at 11:45 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I don’t know whether putting back an identical wooden roof is necessarily the best idea. There may be some arguments for adding the best possible new design, in terms of safety, accepting that the fire happened and is part of history, and respecting the way medieval cathedrals typically grew, by the accretion of contributions from many centuries.
posted by Segundus at 11:55 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


I am as far from religious as one can be, but old gothic cathedrals speak to me in time, and intention, the millions of people who have come and gone and Felt Things within, the extraordinary beauty and skill.

I last went to Paris a few years ago with my sister, latest of many visits, and we stayed near Notre Dame because we love it. One morning we got up early and visited the cathedral as the first stop of the day. Morning mass was in progress and we waited quietly for it to be done before we went poking about being tourists. We sat and gazed at the great North Rose Window, the one I love the most, for half an hour. Listening to the singing, soaking in the atmosphere of this glorious, enormous, enduring place, never bored with the view. Those extraordinary windows are the heart and essence of Notre Dame, for me.

I am heartbroken for the damage and loss. I grieved to see the flames and the destruction. But today it seems that not all is destroyed, and I am hopeful that the structure can be repaired, as it has been repaired before. That something of our own century will endure as part of the building's history. An episode in its history. If - if! - the rose windows have somehow endured, then I will believe Notre Dame can pass through this as well.
posted by Ilira at 12:08 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


Same thing happened as on 9/11 - I was sick with a high fever, my sister kept calling me with the news, and I thought it was a crazy dream until the fever broke. But it's true, my God.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:49 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


The discussion about the oaks in Versailles grown for this very purpose reminds me about this story about the oaks planted 500 years prior for the roof timbers of the dining hall of the New College, Oxford.
posted by Harald74 at 12:58 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


Dear Notre-Dame,

I'm sorry to hear about your fire. It was a great loss and you are a beautiful building. That must've been really devastating. I'm glad to hear some of you is still together.

You may not remember me, but I'm Ms. Moonlight. My husband and I visited you back in 2010. I really liked the visit and I bought a little souvenir. I'll display it tonight and think of you.

When everything is all back sound, just let me know and I'll visit again - Brexit or no Brexit, rain or shine, I'll be there to take pictures of you and glance at you lovingly from the Seine.

Yours,

Ms. Moonlight.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:13 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


[Quick note that I deleted part of a comment above per the commenter's nice request (about Reddit photos) because it was a lie/hoax. Letting you know so no one thinks they are crazy if they look for that link here and don't see it now, and also as a convenient reminder of a point in the The Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: "Big news brings out the fakers. And Photoshoppers." Just something to keep in mind!]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:16 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


That story is told about half the colleges in Oxford /and/ Cambridge. It’s also probably a myth - the New College archivist says that the land the trees for the restoration came from was acquired after the building of the hall, with the trees already in place.
posted by pharm at 1:19 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


I've been thinking about why this hit me so hard.

I'm not a believer, and my mother is; we just took a trip to some Hanseatic cities in North-Germany, and visited a couple of brick gothic churches. We look at churches from a mostly different perspective, and not all of our reasons overlap, but we both enjoyed seeing them.

I like to look at churches, and other holy buildings, because I admire craftsmanship; I'm a signwriter, I recognise a good hand when I see one. It can be striking to realise that that hand died hundreds of years ago. It's like a collegue reaches out across the centuries, and says hello. Hello, don't you hate it when your best sable brush has a hair sticking out and it ruins your lines?

Mostly, I like to look at holy buildings because they show us what people are capable of when they are motivated by love. It's a type of love that I don't share, but it's love all the same. And in this world and these times, when we are all too often shown what people are capable of when they are motivated by hatred and contempt, that is not such a bad thing to be reminded of.

It's not about the stones and the beams and the glass rainbows that make up the windows. It's all of the hours, weeks, years spent in making it, it's all of the memories in those who visited, and all of the dreams in those who didn't, but wanted to. After all, it's about people.

As Will said, what a piece of work is (hu)man.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:05 AM on April 16 [34 favorites]


I never had the chance to see the cathedral myself, but this still hits hard. It is sad when beauty is lost.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:36 AM on April 16


Wired elaborates on the info provided by chavenet's link above: For the last half-decade or so, an architectural historian named Andrew Tallon worked with laser scanners to capture the entirety of the cathedral’s interior and exterior in meticulous 3D point clouds. His billion points of light revealed a living structure; the magnificent flying buttresses had indeed held the walls true, but the Gallery of Kings, statues on the western facade, were a foot out of plumb, Tallon told National Geographic in 2015.

Just as it had in Victor Hugo's day, the entire building had in fact fallen into disrepair by then. In 2017, the problems became too serious to ignore. The New York Times reported on stacks of masonry, fallen or removed, in the gardens. Gargoyles had given way to plastic pipes to drain away rainwater. A remodel was imperative, though as Time reported, it wasn’t clear who would pay for it. This is the renovation project that was underway when the fire started, and architects now hope that Tallon’s scans may provide a map for keeping on track whatever rebuilding will have to take place.

Tallon died late last year, and his mentor, a pioneer in using modern engineering forensics in historic architecture named Robert Mark, died in early 2019. “Both of them loved this building,” Bork says. “I’m just glad they didn’t have to see this.”

posted by Bella Donna at 3:14 AM on April 16 [11 favorites]


I stayed up last night watching France 24 until reports came in that the main structure of the building had been saved. I slept badly but the news this morning has been heartening, compared how it seemed like things might go while the fire was out of control. Reading about the incredible work of the firefighters and seeing pictures of Notre Dame from this morning has helped me process my own feelings about this, as well as various essays and articles about the church. There have been a lot of great links shared so far in this thread, but one article that really struck me is this short essay by Lauren Collins in The New Yorker, On the Roof of Notre-Dame, Before It Burned, talking about the restoration that was going on. Excerpt:
Decaillot and Baumgartner finished work on the statues on Thursday. They were looking forward to going back to Notre-Dame in a few weeks, to take down the rooster that perched on top of the spire. Tonight I realized that we may have been some of the last people to stand there. I remember seeing a pigeon that had made its nest in the flat of a gargoyle’s neck. I got up close to a clock that, I was amazed to learn, was wound every Thursday morning. The job site seemed clean and well organized—there was a shower cabin where, before descending, each worker was required to wash off toxic lead, untold quantities of which were released tonight into the atmosphere—but I was amazed at how fragile everything was, and how intimate its upkeep. The cathedral was the work of people, not machines.
posted by Kattullus at 3:36 AM on April 16 [13 favorites]


I'm really struggling to get upset about this. I was genuinely surprised to see so many non french friends grieving over the news when it broke last night.

Nobody died (I think/hope?) and as such, it's just stuff... Grenfell Tower was a far greater tragedy, and yet nobody will be thinking about the people who died in a thousand years.

I get it; it's an iconic, historical building, unique, etc. But it's also a monument to feudal excess. I'm of the opinion that, if it's going to be missed then it will get rebuilt, and if it doesn't then we obviously didn't care about it enough. scaryblackdeath and rumple I think have the best of it; It can be rebuilt, and it will be the same, or maybe even better!
posted by trif at 3:40 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


I hope it’s not rebuilt. Many thousands of people enjoyed it. But the idea of an austerity government which has been squeezing its people (among others) half to death turning around and immediately and happily committing to spending tens of millions on a building is disturbing to me. If the people of France (and all the people who rightly have a stake in her financial matters—so all the former colonies) want the money to be spent on that, fine! But to make it out to be a given when people have been protesting in the streets for months over the conditions there...and that’s before we get to places like Algeria and Haiti...
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:03 AM on April 16 [15 favorites]


It seems it will be rebuilt/restored for private donations. Which is how Catholic Churches are normally built and restored, and what Macron said last night.
posted by mumimor at 4:05 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


A pox on all the news sources currently posting "aftermath" photo galleries where in most of the pictures it's still on fire.

(Here's a shite gallery from the BBC, and a slightly better one from the Guardian)
posted by grahamparks at 4:45 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I would like to gently point out for the "just a building" coterie that the tourism sector relies on the draw of buildings, monuments and works of art, amongst other factors. Resulting dips in that economy will be more painful for the smaller individual business rather than the big international chains.
posted by romakimmy at 5:12 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


Many thousands of people enjoyed it.
It's visited by more than 13 millions of people per year, twice than the Eiffel Tower. It's the main attraction for a tourist industry that represents 9.7% of the French GDP and employs 11% of the population (18% in Paris alone). Tourists in Paris spent 17 billion USD in 2014. So, yes, people are going to spend some money to fix it because it's in everyone's interest to do so.
posted by elgilito at 5:20 AM on April 16 [21 favorites]


I hope it’s not rebuilt. Many thousands of people enjoyed it. But the idea of an austerity government which has been squeezing its people

I understand where this is coming from. It's coming from a position of deep ignorance. It's coming from a position of transference of American guilt onto (the already sizeable and hugely under-acknowledged) the guilt of Europeans. It's coming from a failure to recognise the harm that discontinuities in history do to societies. It's coming from an idea that revenge is good, and that as Europe destroyed so many other cultures, the only way to balance the books is to destroy Europe.

The only thing that would happen if no one spent the money to reconstruct it is that the money that would've been spent would disappear. It wouldn't be diverted to alleviate poverty elsewhere in France, let alone in its former colonies. And believing that France has bigger problems with extreme poverty than any Anglophone country just because of a bunch of bigots who are protesting against petrol tax is, to put it mildly, a parochial point of view.

Is it an obscenity to spend hundreds of millions of euro on restoring Notre Dame? Well, only in the same way that it's an obscenity to spend hundreds of millions making a movie. And there's no question about which is more ephemeral.
posted by ambrosen at 6:15 AM on April 16 [57 favorites]


seems it will be rebuilt/restored for private donations. Which is how Catholic Churches are normally built and restored,

Yes. From the grand donations of millionaires to the small donations of people like us, around the world. I’d be very surprised if there weren’t special collections for it as soon as the place to give is organized.
posted by corb at 6:23 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


[Let's please steer away making this event a vehicle for debating colonialism, yellow vests, etc. Those issues can have their own posts and discussion threads for anyone who would like to address those topics.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:31 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


Nobody died (I think/hope?) and as such, it's just stuff... Grenfell Tower was a far greater tragedy, and yet nobody will be thinking about the people who died in a thousand years. I get it; it's an iconic, historical building, unique, etc. But it's also a monument to feudal excess.

There was also concern that some of the artifacts inside had been destroyed as well. Some of these things had tremendous cultural significance - some historic significance, and some artistic significance. Right now I'm reading that one of the things that may have been lost - or at least severely damaged - is the great organ, an 800-year-old pipe organ. Also affected are the church's bells, which many Parisians may remember being rung at culturally and historically significant events like V-E day in World War II or Armistice Day after World War I. Many of the paintings inside were also threatened (the Louvre is having a look at them now).

I take your point about "no one is up in arms about Grenfell Tower". And I agree with that. However, comparing this to Grenfell Tower's destruction isn't quite the same comparison - I'd instead compare it to the Magna Carta or Stonehenge being destroyed. (Or, for the US, the National Archive or the display of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, or the Liberty Bell.) Every nation has at least one object which has emotional and cultural weight for them - most likely they have several - and if it were to be destroyed, even though "it's just stuff" it still is a heavy loss, you know?

In the case of some of the artifacts in Notre Dame there are also artistic treasures. And again, you make a fair point that the society that paid for those artworks may have been unjust. However, the society that paid for those artworks also reserved them for the elite and didn't let the rest of the public come near them; today, society has shifted to make those artworks accessible to all (I realize that there are still monetary barriers, but the access is greater than it once was by far). The question of "can we separate the art from the artist" is an ongoing debate, but at least that step has been taken. Many of the friends I know who are grieving about Notre Dame are doing so because of the artistic significance rather than the cultural or religious significance; in the days of feudalism they wouldn't ever have been able to see them.

"It's just stuff" but sometimes stuff can be treasure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


The Vatican has, like, $15 billion dollars. Why can’t they pay for rebuilding a Catholic Church?
posted by palomar at 7:11 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Palomar: if they did that then they'd get flak for "why rebuild Notre Dame instead of trying to feed all the hungry people around the world", no?

BBC News is reporting a number of pledges for support already rolling in. I'm assuming that the Vatican is most likely one of the entities pledging.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I mean, yes, why does the Vatican hoard wealth rather than actually help people with it? But... it's already so glaringly obvious that the world cares more about repairing the Notre Dame, and the Church sure has zero problem ignoring the "flak" they get for the way they tread the sexual abuse survivors it created, so...
posted by palomar at 7:21 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Notre Dame was standing when Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, the Great Peacemaker, Shakespeare, Bashō were all born. You can see it in this illustrated manuscript page painted while Machu Picchu was under construction and the Byzantine Empire still ruled. To refuse to spend money to rebuild it while it’s under our (fleeting) generation’s custody is a kind of crime against history and another thousand years’ worth of humanity as well as monumental hubris about our individual importance.
posted by sallybrown at 7:29 AM on April 16 [49 favorites]


I’m visiting Paris right now and I went to Chartres today to see the amazing Gothic cathedral there; if you’ve never been and have even a passing interest in the Middle Ages, you need to go. (The audioguide is incredibly good too.)

Watching the Notre Dame burn last night on the Pont de Sully and from the Parc de Belleville will stay with me forever, in that way that disasters reduce us all to our most elemental: we are, nearly all of us, but one small life, and have so little influence in the world.

Was my feeling what a person 10,000 years ago felt as her village was swallowed by floodwaters? Or what someone a thousand years ago felt as they watched an avalanche bury their herd? Or what someone a hundred years ago felt seeing the destruction of aerial bombing in their city? A terrible helplessness.

Visiting cathedrals, especially masterpieces like Notre Dame in Paris and Chartres, can reduce us to a sense of tininess. Yet this is not a helpless tininess - it is one that contextualises you and your place in an unpredictable world, with a direct channel to the divine.

Going to Chartres today was profoundly reassuring in a way that is hard to describe, but let me put it like this: the continuities of society and culture, with all their faults, are indeed the rocks upon which we build our personal well-being. Being able to predict tomorrow is an incredible luxury for a living species, and the existence of an enormous 850-year-old building is reassurance that even people of limited experience and means can choose to believe that tomorrow will, indeed, come.
posted by mdonley at 7:30 AM on April 16 [36 favorites]


[A couple comments deleted. Let's maybe hold off a having a big fight over "they shouldn't rebuild", "this is less important than other things", "the Catholic church is bad" etc. Those are fair opinions but dropping them in here while people are still in shock over this is just looking for a fight.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:37 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]




Ah, this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man perhaps in the whole Western world, and it's without a signature:

Chartres.


A celebration to God's glory and to the dignity of man. All that's left, most artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor, forked radish. There aren't any celebrations. Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable.

You know, it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things -- this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand, choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust -- to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us to accomplish.

Our works in stone, in paint, in print, are spared. Some of them for a few decades or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash. The triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes.

A fact of life: we're going to die.

"Be of good heart," cry the dead artists out of the living past. "Our songs will all be silenced -- but what of it? Go on singing."

Maybe a man's name doesn't matter all that much.
— Orson Welles, F for Fake
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:51 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


A point of order: the Catholic Church doesn't own Notre Dame de Paris. The French government took it over in 1905 and allow the church to use it so long as it remains open to the public without charge. This is why the government is the group pledging to rebuild.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:58 AM on April 16 [25 favorites]


Watching this story unfold here on Metafilter and on Twitter yesterday was like a capsule of everything that is bad about fast news and social media. I was just as shocked and saddened and upset as everyone else. I love Paris, I love Notre Dame. Seeing the spire collapse in real time, over and over again as the GIF loops, my heart felt as wrecked as the cathedral.

But seriously, is that emotional trauma necessary? Or even appropriate? I put those stories away yesterday evening and got back to my life. And then spent twenty minutes reading the news stories this morning (US time) and now I'm informed. It's still a tragedy, a great building gravely damaged. But I'm grateful to be spared the minute by minute escalation of emotion all tuned to maximize advertising views on the Internet sites.

I'm particularly fascinated by the false spread of information about the stained glass windows. Everywhere people were reporting the windows were surely lost. This very Metafilter post at the top reports "all of the stained glass is destroyed". It also uses the intensely emotional word "exploded" just like this false tweet from the Daily Mirror reported.

The rose windows did not explode. Reports now are that all survived. But thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook, here on Metafilter lived through a reality of "the windows exploded", imagined it in their minds as clearly as they could see the spire toppling. Is that healthy?
posted by Nelson at 8:12 AM on April 16 [43 favorites]


I would have expected all the lead to have melted, which would certainly have destroyed the windows, but obviously it was not even very hot inside at ground level - aftermath pictures show wax candles surviving the blaze.
posted by Akke at 8:17 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]




For the first time, I’m starting to get an understanding of the trauma of World War II. I mean, yes, it’s just a building, a thing, and millions died in the war, but there’s something about the loss of an artifact, an identity here. And trying to now imagine the bombers coming every night for years and then emerging the next morning to see what’s still standing.

My wife lived in Paris and we’ve been to Notre Dame many times and it is indeed awe inspiring. Watching the Parisian’s reaction, I can begin to understand their trauma. What I’m contemplating this morning is how utterly terrorized people must have been when all of Europe was going through this. Not only were your family and neighbors dying and your homes destroyed but many of your cultural touchstones that had stood for centuries were leveled. Surely, *that* felt like the end times. And still they rebuilt. Notre Dame was a tragic accident (hopefully the investigation shows) but it’s largely standing and it will get rebuilt.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:22 AM on April 16 [30 favorites]


But thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook, here on Metafilter lived through a reality of "the windows exploded", imagined it in their minds as clearly as they could see the spire toppling. Is that healthy?

Is it healthy to consider being in a temporary state of delusion by misinformation "a reality"?
posted by thelonius at 8:24 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


obviously it was not even very hot inside at ground level - aftermath pictures show wax candles surviving the blaze

I suspect that like many churches Notre Dame likely used for display tube candles: painted metal tubes with a small wax candle inside pushed upward by a spring as it burns, so visually the flame is always at the same height, which looks neater and more elegant. So a tall white maybe-metal candle surviving the fire doesn't indicate much to me either way yet. I was surprised that in photos, some of the candles appeared to still be lit/burning, which even if they're tube candles would indicate that the wax inserts hadn't been completely melted or consumed by heat.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:33 AM on April 16


Every beam from a single oak. Oaks don't exist like that any more. Possibly because they were used like this. Nevertheless, they were transformed into a different kind of art and they were with us for 800 or so years and now they're gone. It's so sad. It's not the only sad thing, but it matters.
posted by h00py at 8:38 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


That building is three times as old as the United f*cking States.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:53 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


Does Canada have the trees to rebuild the roof?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:03 AM on April 16


BBC News is reporting a number of pledges for support already rolling in.

French billionaires are leading the way. It will be interesting to see which foreigners, if any, do likewise. You know who you are.

(Frankly, I could hope this inspires them to look into other global monuments (or "stuff") that could use a little TLC.)
posted by BWA at 9:05 AM on April 16


It will be interesting to see which foreigners, if any, do likewise. You know who you are.

I believe Tim Cook made a pledge today.
posted by anastasiav at 9:08 AM on April 16


Most people I know are aware that breaking information surrounding a tragedy is likely to be mixed with misinformation. If someone did something drastic after reading misinformation about exploding windows, that doesn't seem healthy to me, but it doesn't sound unhealthy to me to hear this particular kind of misinformation early on during a tragedy.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:13 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


Every beam from a single oak. Oaks don't exist like that any more.

They're not common, but they do exist.

The largest beams in the roof, the tie beams, were 24 x 25 cm in section and over 14 meters in length. The length is unusual in modern use, but oaks of that size do exist, including in France.

As evidence: in 1999 an ice storm destroyed over 10,000 trees at Versailles, and many of the trees were harvested for lumber, including 250 year old oaks that produced slabs that were 5m long but 60cm x 15cm over that length. Judging from pictures of those slabs, those trees could very likely have been milled into 14m x 24cm x 25cm beams.
posted by jedicus at 9:38 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


I regret that I never made it to Paris to see her, as I've been planning all my life. I'm comforted that if it had to happen, it happened in an age where there is an unprecedented level of photographic and video documentation and 3-D scans.
I'm transported in my memory to standing in the chapter house of Westminster Abbey, marveling at the stained glass depicting the Battle of Britain in which the older windows were destroyed, side by side with the murals of the Apocalypse painted in the 1300s.
Maybe it's easier for me to think of the eventual rising from the ashes because I didn't see the conflagration in real time with the rest of the world. I tried to make myself go back and watch the videos, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Maybe a little later.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:02 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I'd like to see them have an architectural competition for a new roof, a kind of transformation comparable to the Louvre's glass pyramid, which people hated until they saw it. For example this new church in Austria, while smaller scale, has a roof inspired by a Romansque ossuary. Or this one which draws on the northern Gothic tradition.

I'm ok with whatever they do, but breathe out and imagine Notre Dame with something new and fucking bold for the next 1000 years.
posted by Rumple at 10:03 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]




oh man Rumple I could not disagree harder. I was just thinking last night how it was a small mercy that this didn't happen in Brutalist times. But the idea of glass in the roof is moving.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:14 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I'm ok with whatever they do, but breathe out and imagine Notre Dame with something new and fucking bold for the next 1000 years.

Are those kinds of bold choices likely to last 1000 years? Serious question. What kinds of construction materials and techniques can last in the uber-long-term and what kind can't? I don't think the Louvre pyramid will be there in 1000 years.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:16 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Perhaps not, but it would be an expression of actual hope in the future to try to make it so. Like a 10,000 year clock project in the heart of Paris.

And the roof that just burnt was not really made of 900 year old materials, based on all the pictures I saw.
posted by Rumple at 10:18 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


And the roof that just burnt was not really made of 900 year old materials, based on all the pictures I saw.

Yes, it was that old, and the trees used to frame it started growing around 900 AD.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:23 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Just imagine a huge geodesic dome filled with an elaborate liturgical ropes course.
posted by sammyo at 10:25 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


There are many conflicting informations about the timber construction of the roof. I'm waiting for everything to cool down before I judge. In Denmark, there are several forests planted in the early 1800's with the purpose of delivering timber to the navy which have been ready for more than a decade. I'm sure the owners (mostly the state) would be thrilled to put them to use.
posted by mumimor at 10:30 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Since I first heard the news yesterday, I've been thinking about the emotions that come with the loss of a historical and cultural artifact like Notre Dame; they are indeed different than the emotions that come with a tragedy involving massive loss of life. But it's still a loss, and it's okay to grieve a loss. Obviously I'm grateful no one was killed. But I'm still struck by the knowledge that this monument that I, and hundreds of millions of other people, have visited, that seemed so permanent, is no longer whole.

The best analogy, for me, is how I felt on hearing of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan by the Taliban in Afganistan. Giant, breathtaking monuments of great spiritual significance, created thousands of years ago by human hands, the country's biggest tourist attraction, destroyed in a short period of time. Now, that is different because we know their destruction was deliberate, but all the same, when it happened I knew something ancient and meaningful was lost that could never come back in the same form.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:34 AM on April 16 [17 favorites]


Notre-Dame has been property of the government since November 2, 1789, when the Constituent Assembly voted to nationalize the assets of the Church in order to solve the financial crisis. Many of these assets were then sold at auction and, in some cases, buildings were demolished to resell their materials. Notre-Dame, however, hadn't been sold when Napoleon and Pius VII agreed to the Concordat of 1801. It was soon restored to worship and Napoleon crowned himself there in 1803.

Notre-Dame has remained government property since then; 1905 only marked the separation of Church and State in France. During the Concordat, as during the first period of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy during the Revolution, members of the clergy received a salary from the State. After 1905 this stopped and priests had to be paid from the revenues of the Church, but the buildings remained in the hands of the State.

After the publishing of Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo in 1831, the public took an interest in its restoration, and Viollet-le-Duc directed a large state-sponsored program of works between 1844 and 1864, including the construction of the spire that was destroyed by fire yesterday.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:36 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


mumimor: "I'm sure the owners (mostly the state) would be thrilled to put them to use."

Why use trees at all? Spare the trees!
posted by chavenet at 10:46 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


A building where so much was built by hand (relatively speaking, of course they had machines but compared to modern techniques) and where so many millions of people have come to feel such strong emotions for so many years - no real life as we know it was lost, but I keep hearing a line from Whitman: "Echoes of Heavenly death murmured I hear"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:48 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


With its weathered stone exterior and rhythmic use of windows, the Notre-Dame has more in common with brutalism than one might think.
posted by traveler_ at 10:48 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Why use trees at all? Spare the trees!
Because the trees are at their most useful age. If they go to France, they will be replaced by new trees. In Denmark, there was a man made ecological catastrophe during the 18th century, where the country was almost turned into desert. So the king decreed a law where several areas were proclaimed conservation areas or permanent forest. So if you cut down trees there, you have to plant new trees. Basically, that law has never been overturned, actually you can still get government support for planting new forest.
posted by mumimor at 10:56 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


That story is told about half the colleges in Oxford /and/ Cambridge. It’s also probably a myth - the New College archivist says that the land the trees for the restoration came from was acquired after the building of the hall, with the trees already in place.

Yes--like seven centuries ago!

The exact story is indeed shaky, but the underlying concept of long-term stewardship of resources is not.
posted by praemunire at 10:57 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Two docos on building cathedrals. Could be somewhat cathartic.
posted by BWA at 11:06 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


mumimor: "Why use trees at all? Spare the trees!
Because the trees are at their most useful age. If they go to France, they will be replaced by new trees. In Denmark, there was a man made ecological catastrophe during the 18th century, where the country was almost turned into desert. So the king decreed a law where several areas were proclaimed conservation areas or permanent forest. So if you cut down trees there, you have to plant new trees. Basically, that law has never been overturned, actually you can still get government support for planting new forest.
"

I get that and see the value of it, but why would we want to use wood again on this structure? Build it out of some modern material, something that doesn't burn!
posted by chavenet at 11:10 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


The rose windows did not explode. Reports now are that all survived. But thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook, here on Metafilter lived through a reality of "the windows exploded", imagined it in their minds as clearly as they could see the spire toppling. Is that healthy?

The smaller rose windows were indeed damaged and possibly lost -- you can see the scorching where fire came through in these pictures. It appears that the great rose windows did survive, presumably because they were under the vault instead of above it in the roof area that burned. So at worst people were briefly misinformed about the extent of stained glass destruction.
posted by tavella at 11:19 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


That building is three times as old as the United f*cking States.

Heck, it was standing 150 years before f*cking Columbus sailed the f*cking Atlantic.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:39 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


250
posted by The Tensor at 11:58 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


I get that and see the value of it, but why would we want to use wood again on this structure? Build it out of some modern material, something that doesn't burn!

Can you name a modern material that doesn't burn and would last 1000 years? The only non-burning but lasting materials I can think of are un-reinforced cement and stone. Neither is new. I'm not sure one could usefully make beams out of either, though, so it would have to be a completely different style of roof. Not that that's necessarily bad, as others have noted, but it's sure not as simple as "just use steel beams."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:58 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


The cathedral in Chartres used an iron framework in its roof, the 'Charpente de fer', after their roof fire in 1836. So that's lasted a century and a half already.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:08 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


Interesting...so what's the lifespan on that? I had googled steel beams and it's 150 years. I tried googling cast iron but it seems to be mostly about the longevity of cast iron pipes (100 years) possibly different because A) structure is different B) there would surely be less water on roof beams than in a pipe.

While trying to find the longevity, I just found this..."Cast iron has some architectural advantages, and some weaknesses. It is strong in compression, but weak in tension and bending. Its strength and stiffness deteriorate when subjected to high heat, such as in a fire. In the early era of the industrial revolution cast iron was often used in factory construction, in part owing to the misconception that such structures would be fireproof."

It looks like it doesn't burn but it does collapse. I mean maybe that's less of a big deal since presumably if there wasn't a bunch of fuel in the attic the attic wouldn't burn and the iron beams wouldn't get hot.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:27 PM on April 16




Aluminum? Light, strong, and resistant to corrosion.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:00 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


You would think that any blacksmith could disabuse them of the notion that it's fireproof.

This is like the 19th century version of "jet fuel can't melt steel beams" isn't it.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:13 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Heat causes metal to expand and weaken. The temperature of a fire applied to structural steel is enough to weaken it to the point where it could collapse, putting mechanical stress on areas that relied on it for support (walls, flying buttresses, etc.) and risking further collapse.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:13 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


The Grauniad put out an article in 2017 about the need for extensive renovations to the Palace of Westminster. There is such a serious risk of fire that "[e]very hour of every day, four or five members of the fire-safety team are patrolling the palace, hunting for flames."

I imagine that it isn't just the materials and construction methods of the existing building, but how to integrate them with newer materials and methods (and modern building needs, like electrical wiring in Westminster) to keep from making the problem worse.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:21 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Aluminium needs a lot less heat to melt than you'd think. I've seen a motorcycle that had been set on fire; most parts were still present and recognisable, but the carburettors had been melted into a literal puddle.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:00 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Steel supports would probably make more sense than replacing it with wood, and would be appropriate tribute to the cathedral being a constantly renewed work across many centuries. You'd have to chop down a lot of very old trees to reproduce it exactly, and it would likely be inferior compared to a lightweight steel roof.
posted by tavella at 2:01 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


The temperature of a fire applied to structural steel is enough to weaken it to the point where it could collapse, putting mechanical stress on areas that relied on it for support (walls, flying buttresses, etc.) and risking further collapse.

I don't believe walls rely on support from the roof; from what I gather, the roof was basically a cap that protected the vaulting which supported the walls. It was a stone building wearing a wooden hat, and that hat can be redone in lot of ways and still shield the stone beneath from weather.
posted by tavella at 2:06 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


but it's sure not as simple as "just use steel beams."

Gothic architecture is finely balanced - buttresses to pull, the vault to push - and adding steel to the mix is adding weight and inflexibility that the walls were not meant to bear.

But don't take my word for it. Here's historic renovations expert Stewart Kidd, as quoted in The Guardian:

If there was any consolation to be taken from Notre Dame, he said, it was that it did not appear to have had any timber beams replaced with steel ones during 19th century refurbishments, something which happened a lot at the time. “I guarantee that if it had steel beams in, which has happened in some churches as part of Victorian refurbishment, it could have pushed out the walls.”
posted by anastasiav at 2:16 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


They are going to have plenty of time to decide what they want to do, and they will have plenty of good options that were unavailable to the builders in the 1200’s. We don’t have to solve this problem for them right now.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:22 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Yeah, one reason we recycle aluminium cans so easily is that you can basically smelt the stuff in a home barbecue. I wouldn't rely on aluminium for structural materials.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:33 PM on April 16


"I guarantee that if it had steel beams in, which has happened in some churches as part of Victorian refurbishment, it could have pushed out the walls."

Yes, it isn't that steel or metal would melt, but that the temperature of a fire expands and softens the material in a way that would cause damage elsewhere. In any case, the engineers brought in to renovate will know about these issues and make the decisions that need to be made.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:35 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


[On cast iron]: Its strength and stiffness deteriorate when subjected to high heat, such as in a fire.

Yes. They learned that the hard way when Coventry Cathedral caught fire due to German incendiary bombs in November 1940. Around 1880, well-meaning Victorians had reinforced some of the timber beams by putting iron flitch plates down the centre of them.

Had they not done so, Coventry might have been left in much the same state as Notre Dame today. But the metal distorted in the heat of the fire and tore the walls and ceiling down. Today, that cathedral is a scenic ruin except for its tower.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:51 PM on April 16 [9 favorites]


Here's a video hosted on Facebook. From a French Catholic Facebook page, about a minute and twenty seconds of video shot inside, including a very clear shot of the North Rose window.
posted by anastasiav at 2:55 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


They should just put a blue tarp over top of it.
posted by bleep at 4:10 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


The Nantes Cathedral suffered a very similar fate in 1972: the damages caused by bombings in WW2 were being repaired when a worker forgot to turn off his blowtorch, causing a gigantic fire that completely destroyed the roof. From what can be seen in the video, the new roof combines concrete beams and oak rafters.

One thing that should be noted is that many of these medieval-era buildings are pretty much "ships of Theseus" by now. Notre-Dame was something of an empty shell in the first decades of the 19th century: it was in a degraded state, with most statues gone or vandalized, no spire, and none of the original stained glass windows left (the medieval ones had been removed in the mid-1700 because they were found to be too dark). Gothic art was out of fashion and some people were even petitioning for the destruction of the cathedral. After gothic became hot again (with some help of a 29-year old Victor Hugo) the restoration by architects Viollet-Le-Duc and Lassus involved a lot of re-imagining, taking inspiration from other medieval buildings and occasionally going a little bit further. The spire that was destroyed yesterday, the chimeras gallery, including the iconic Stryge, and most statues are modern pastiches of medieval architecture by Viollet-Le-Duc (who added a statue modelled after himself on the basis of the spire): respectful, pretty, but not fully period-accurate. Viollet-Le-Duc used to be a highly controversial figure, as his opinions on building restoration differed from the more science-based principles adopted in the 20th century (which are themselves still under discussion). It will be interesting to see what will happen with the spire: will it be rebuilt like the one designed by Viollet-Le-Duc, ie a 19th idea of what a medieval spire looked like (the new Notre-Dame spire was actually a version of the one of the Orléans Cathedral, built a little earlier by the same carpenter), or will the restoration try to make it closer to the 15th century original, as seen in the top-left corner of this famous manuscript. Of course, Viollet-Le-Duc's additions are part of the history of the Cathedral (and iconically so), so that's complicated.
posted by elgilito at 4:22 PM on April 16 [26 favorites]


At least from that video, large parts of the interior look intact, though there may be damage further down the axes that isn't visible. I'm amazed they managed to keep the falling timbers from igniting all that varnished woodwork and chairs. There must have been firefighters knocking down the internal fires, while under an another enormous fire covering the whole roof, with attendant risk of collapsing stone or melting lead. But good job medieval workmen! Good job, Parisien firefighters!
posted by tavella at 4:29 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


The Great Organ of Notre Dame SAVED after devastating fire - Pianist
Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris, says Notre Dame’s organ – which is among the world’s most famous and biggest – remains intact after the devastating fire at Paris’s 856-year-old cathedral last night.
At least reconstruction will have good tunes.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:34 PM on April 16 [15 favorites]


tavella, news tonight showed footage of firemen sending in a robot with a hose while embers dropped down on the altar. It appears that what bit of burning things dropping down were being hosed down.

Also surprising was that it looked like the firefighters' helmets were shiny metal things that looked like they belonged on top of a suit of armor. Weird.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:39 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]




Via McMansion Hell: a bold remodeling of Notre Dame for urban mixed-use development! [satire]
posted by nicebookrack at 11:46 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I don't think this Guardian article has been linked. The scary part: authorities say the cathedral may have been "15 to 30 minutes" from destruction. The bells are held up by a wooden framework; if that had burned, the bells would have crashed down, possibly destroying the towers. Firefighters inside the building created a "wall of water" to keep the fire from reaching the towers.
posted by zompist at 12:33 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


Also from the Guardian, Here's First Dog on the Moon's take on the fire.
posted by michswiss at 1:33 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


A fine example of WhatAboutIsm there.
posted by pharm at 2:10 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


zengargoyle, I visited a fire station while in Paris several years ago, and their helmets and facepieces were notably different from what’s used in the US, or anything I’ve seen other places in Europe.
posted by wintermind at 4:19 AM on April 17


A fine example of WhatAboutIsm there.

It's not because there's no meaningful critique that is being avoided by saying "you do X". Unless aboriginal peoples' willful neglect and/or intentional acts caused the fire at Notre Dame...?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:34 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I think the point is that we should not be made to feel like this cause is more worthy than other tragedies in the recent past and, if that is the case, why is there a discrepancy in the charitable donations pledged to the different causes?

Being more explicit; the human interest causes seem to have engendered far less charity than the old church. It could be argued that this is holding a magnifying glass up to the perverse relative values that modern society places on lives and on objects.
posted by trif at 5:59 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Being more explicit; the human interest causes seem to have engendered far less charity than the old church. It could be argued that this is holding a magnifying glass up to the perverse relative values that modern society places on lives and on objects.

I actually read a more nuanced take this morning - that two squillionaires in France have already made sizeable contributions to the rebuilding fund, which holds a magnifying glass up to the fact that two people out of 7 billion have that much money in the first place, and that they hadn't contributed to human interest causes prior to this.

So it's the point you were illustrating above, only through a "top 1%" filter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


think the point is that we should not be made to feel like this cause is more worthy than other tragedies in the recent past

Nobody can make you feel anything. If you don’t feel Notre Dame burning is a tragedy, nobody can make you feel that way. What people are saying is that hot takes like “sure this is a tragedy but did you weep for all the OTHERS, huh?” are /insensitive and rude/. You don’t go to a funeral and talk about how “sure it’s bad your dad died but a lot of other dads have died and you didn’t cry nearly as hard for them.”

Some people feel this tragedy is deep and meaningful and touches them. If you don’t feel it’s important to you, that’s fine! There are lots of tragedies people don’t personally mourn, and you could easily be crushed under the weight of feeling things! But don’t tell others they are wrong to mourn.
posted by corb at 6:16 AM on April 17 [25 favorites]


Doubts rise over Macron’s 5-year plan to rebuild Notre Dame (By Thomas Adamson and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny, AP News)
Macron said the renovations to restore iconic 19th century spire, vaulting and two-thirds of the cathedral’s roof would be completed in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics. [...]

Experts have said, however, that the ambitious timeline appears insufficient for such a massive operation. Even French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe — while supporting the government timeline — acknowledged in an address Wednesday that it would be difficult.

“This is obviously an immense challenge, a historic responsibility,” Philippe said.

Prominent French conservation architect Pierluigi Pericolo told Inrocks magazine it could take triple that time.

“No less than 15 years ... it’s a colossal task,” Pericolo said.

Pericolo worked on the restoration of the 19th century Saint-Donatien basilica, which was badly damaged by fire in 2015 in the French city of Nantes. He said it could take between “two to five years” just to check the stability of the massive cathedral that dominates the Paris skyline.

“It’s a fundamental step, and very complex, because it’s difficult to send workers into a monument whose vaulted ceilings are swollen with water,” Pericolo told France-Info. “The end of the fire doesn’t mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside.”

The comments came as Notre Dame’s rector said he would close the once-functioning cathedral for up “five to six years,” acknowledging that “a segment” of the near 900-year-old edifice may be gravely weakened.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:29 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


But don’t tell others they are wrong to mourn.

Sure, but if they say things like "my dad was the best dad in the whole world and obviously everyone is extremely sad because everyone is extremely sad when good dads die, and he deserves millions of dollars for his funeral" and we are all expected to nod along as though this is only right despite the fact that we all have dads, many of whom were not treated as worthy of anywhere near as much consideration...well, then, it is a bit of a different question, isn't it?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:33 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, I don't see that as a fair characterization of anything that's happening.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:40 AM on April 17 [14 favorites]


My son picked up a branch when we went for a walk the other day. It was wet and a bit mouldy, but he liked the shape of it, so I let him carry it. When we got back to the car he wanted to take it home with us because "it's my best friend, daddy". I told him that I wasn't going to let him bring the rotten wood into the car, let alone the house, and I threw it back into the forest. He was upset. I tried to explain that it wasn't like it was a real friend, It was just an object and that there would be sticks in the forest that he could play with next time. He wouldn't accept any of these suggestions and cried all the way home.

I believed his behaviour was inappropriate and that perspective was needed. I also believe that, given there have been real life-and-death tragedies in the recent past, the discrepancy in charitable support given between catastrophic wide scale loss of life/livelihood and the partial destruction of a historical building is frankly obscene.

I am not telling anyone they are wrong to mourn. But telling me that now is not the time to talk about the funding of disasters is like telling me the aftermath of a school shooting is the wrong time to talk about gun control.
posted by trif at 6:44 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, I don't see that as a fair characterization of anything that's happening.

I do; the cartoon linked talks about blatant disrespect and intentional destruction of aboriginal holy spaces in Australia.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:47 AM on April 17


also what trif said more eloquently than I
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:55 AM on April 17




The cartoon definitely ends on the kind of hot take it decries, but “Crazy Pierre’s Gargoyle Repair” made me smile.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:04 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I think y'all might consider that this building is really important to French people, a national monument, a jewel of medieval French engineering. They're coughing up funds to pay its restoration because it matters to them. No one's demanding that Americans contribute, "nod along", or even care all that much. It's not your monument, not your history, not your city, you don't have to care.
posted by nangar at 7:14 AM on April 17 [19 favorites]


Also from the Guardian, Here's First Dog on the Moon's take on the fire.

The cartoon ends with ""So how much do we care about historical monuments anyway? It's not exactly fair to expect everyone to freak out about your while you are literally tearing other people's cultural icons to shreds like some sort of white people ISIS", which comes out of left field. The rest of the cartoon doesn't really support the notion that people who are mourning in their own way are expecting everyone else to "freak out" about Notre Dame.

I think when lots of people are experiencing the same thing at the same time, people who aren't having that experience imagine judgment that just simply isn't there. (This is a crass comparison, but tons of people LOVE to watch the SuperBowl, but most of them could care less if people that there are people who don't want to watch it.) I really don't think there's an expectation that everyone has to "freak out" about Notre Dame just because lots of people are having the same intense emotional reaction to the Notre Dame fire.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:17 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


I think y'all might consider that this building is really important to French people, a national monument, a jewel of medieval French engineering. They're coughing up funds to pay its restoration because it matters to them. No one's demanding that Americans contribute, "nod along", or even care all that much. It's not your monument, not your history, not your city, you don't have to care.

Well, that would totally make sense if our president wasn't promising to send aid to France in their time of need, while the citizens of Flint, Michigan still can't drink the water coming out of their taps, and the citizens of Puerto Rico still don't have homes, running water, electricity, food, infrastructure..
posted by palomar at 7:42 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, First Dog on the Moon is an Australian cartoon speaking to an Australian audience.
posted by ambrosen at 7:43 AM on April 17


two squillionaires in France have already made sizeable contributions to the rebuilding fund, which holds a magnifying glass up to the fact that two people out of 7 billion have that much money in the first place, and that they hadn't contributed to human interest causes prior to this
Squillionaires don't need me to defend them, but while it's true that French ones have been known to be a little bit on the stingy side (none participate in the Gates/Buffet Giving Pledge for instance), they all maintain large scale philantropy operations through their foundations. The Bettencourts, notably, gave close to 1 billion USD (66% for medical research, 25% for fighting poverty and 10% for arts). The Arnaults and the Pinaults are also pretty important in the arts. The publicity given to the pledge is unusual, but the pledge itself is not surprising.
posted by elgilito at 7:58 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox, an elaborate NYT Graphics presentation of a 3d model. Illustrates the lack of firewalls and sprinklers, also the difficulty of getting firefighting water into the roof space.

(Also I can't help myself and have to share this unwanted opinion. I hope they replace the spire with some new and modern design. I'm not a fan of Viollet-le-Duc's various fantasy 19th century "restorations", even if over time his architecture has become its own thing of historical import. That spire wasn't too bad, but it really didn't fit with the elegance of much of the rest of the building. I'm not sure I'd go full IM Pei crystal pyramid here, but something unmistakably modern could work here.)
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


I think y'all might consider that this building is really important to French people, a national monument, a jewel of medieval French engineering. They're coughing up funds to pay its restoration because it matters to them. No one's demanding that Americans contribute, "nod along", or even care all that much. It's not your monument, not your history, not your city, you don't have to care.

I mean, you're basically right that I'm bitter and angry about what Americans care about all the time, not just now. There's a genocide going on in our backyard and I am always infuriated about it. (Maybe more than one given the state of Puerto Rico.) This French event is the communally sacred and important headline event that gets compared to a funeral though, and I guess it is what it is in that regard.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:18 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Well, that would totally make sense if our president wasn't promising to send aid to France in their time of need, while the citizens of Flint, Michigan still can't drink the water coming out of their taps, and the citizens of Puerto Rico still don't have homes, running water, electricity, food, infrastructure.

This is driving me crazy, for a few reasons.

(I guess I have to say here that I LOATHE DJT and and fearful the US is descending into a fascist state. I am no defender of the President. However.)

1) In normal times, this would not be unusual for the US to say "let us know if you need anything" when these sorts of things happen, and I have no doubt there are useful resources that exist only in the US.
2) He didn't pledge funds.
3) The US Government already pledged $100M to Flint to pay for pipe replacement, which has been ongoing for more than two years. In fact, on Monday, the Michigan DEQ announced $77M was being released to Flint to complete the project. I understand that Flint citizens still don't trust the water, but that doesn't mean the work isn't getting done. Most testing in Flint shows levels at a very normal 4 ppb (the national standard threshold is 15 ppb). I understand that trust will take a long time (it would for me), but that doesn't mean the situation has been static.
4) The failure of the US Government to fund PR recovery is a national disgrace and I can't really say anything in defense of that.

Look. Cathedrals have always built using funds provided by private donors. For literally a thousand years. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

There is a shit ton to be outraged about now in the world, I get that. But try not to be outraged about people wanting to help restore an 850 year old UNESCO World Heritage site.
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 AM on April 17 [14 favorites]


ifdssn9, maybe that bitterness isn’t really helping. Telling people who care about something bad that happens that they shouldn’t care about it because of /worse thing happening over here/ isn’t going to make them look kindly on you, they’re just going to think you’re being a jerk.

You can campaign for the things you care about without treading on other people.
posted by pharm at 8:23 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


Historically pledges to give money at the time of a disaster have a funny way of never actually being delivered on when the news cycle moves on to the next big thing. Generous pledges have fantastic optics at the time, then the news doesn't follow up when the money is never actually delivered. Don't count chickens before they hatch.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:26 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


ThaT New York Times article says the cause of a fire could have been a worker tossing a cigarette. That's not an accident, that's negligence. I'm sure I remember cases of people starting wildfires by discarding cigarettes being charged with manslaughter.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:26 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


[Fine to mention it in here but if people want to talk more deeply about Trump and American racism and Flint and Puerto Rico, let's take that over to the all-Trump all-the-time thread instead.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:32 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


That's not an accident, that's negligence.

I didn't read the NYT article, but Le Monde seems to think that investigators are just getting started.

Google Translate from the above article:
"If they can not go to the scene, the structure threatening to collapse, the police have not been idle since the fire broke out. Thirty people - workers, security guards, employees of the monument - were heard to reconstruct the events. That is already almost all people who had access to the presumed place of departure of the fire, prohibited to the public. Members of the judicial identity, the technical police and scientific Paris PJ are also already hard at work to gather the maximum of images, plans and other videos, to try to trace the last minutes before the disaster.

The engineers of the central laboratory of the police headquarters, who specialize in this type of investigation, will be responsible for examining the rubble as soon as the structure is stabilized. Meanwhile, drones will fly over the building to make the first images that will allow investigators to build the first scenarios."

posted by anastasiav at 8:33 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Reporting from NPR included interviews suggesting that welding and other aspects of renovation work that introduce sources of heat are often causes of fires in historic buildings being rebuilt. In this case, the danger may have been worsened by the gap between wooden framing and metal roofing, which would have given time for wood to smolder and burn without crews noticing until it was too late. I think, however, investigators are still figuring out if it is safe to enter the building, so it is perhaps premature to speculate too far in any one direction.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:38 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I'm not a Christian, or French. I have barely visited Paris. And yet.

Until now I had not watched any of the videos of the Parisians watching the fire and singing hymns together. Today I did and it made me cry. They were watching the literal heart of their city, of their country, go up in flames; they could have cursed, or shouted abuse at the assumed perpetrators, and I'm sure that in fact some did. But then they started singing, to honour their cathedral as it was burning, to comfort themselves and each other, who can say? Just thinking about it makes me well up again.

That was such a sad, sad sight, and yet so beautiful. I can't sing hymns to save my live but if I had been there, I would have looked up the words on my phone and joined in, the best way I could manage.

As a species, we are capable of the worst and the best.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:56 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


French billionaires donate to Notre Dame, but who foots the bill? (Mike Woods, RFI)
Wealthy French families have pledged enormous donations to rebuild Paris’s damaged Notre-Dame cathedral, making themselves eligible for tax breaks that would mean hundreds of millions of euros in lost revenue for French public services. […]

One major donor, however, announced Wednesday it would renounce the 60 percent tax break on its 100 million euro donation.

“The family will not apply the fiscal advantage eligible to it for this donation,” said a statement issued by the Pinault family’s holding company Artemis.

The statement added the Pinault family believed “there was no question of shifting the burden to French taxpayers.

”It was not immediately clear if other donors would follow their example.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:03 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


But try not to be outraged about people wanting to help restore an 850 year old UNESCO World Heritage site.

Not outraged, more like... so deeply depressed, and really truly understanding some things about the world for the first time, and seeing whose lives and histories matter, and just utterly dismayed and heartsick.
posted by palomar at 9:07 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


This line of thinking ends up indicting anyone who ever gave money to a museum or a symphony or a ballet troupe (and quite possibly to animal rescue, unless the person also believes that all sentient life is of equal importance) instead of to an organization that does direct humanitarian aid. Which, if you're a philosopher who chooses to take it that far (does Peter Singer?), does have a certain force as a line of reasoning. But I expect most people objecting now don't actually donate their time and money in so rigorously prescribed a fashion, and so might want to extend some tolerance to people whose own compromises on this point happen to be somewhat different than theirs.

It's interesting that you bring this up, because the discussion has certainly led me to be more thoughtful about my own work/time. I think that is a good thing; I think that it is okay for people to feel morally criticized sometimes (me included). I am not going to fire anyone or go to their house to yell at them or, frankly, even look at them funny. (I am, in real life, quite a soft touch.) But I think it is okay for me to disagree with them a bit.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:08 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


I am not going to fire anyone or go to their house to yell at them or, frankly, even look at them funny. (I am, in real life, quite a soft touch.) But I think it is okay for me to disagree with them a bit.

Absolutely! I think the pushback might be coming from "hang on, it sounds like you think we're compelling you to care about this and all we're doing is saying that we care." I think there's just confusion over what we're picking up as subtext for the disagreement.

However, that also can be because of subtext that the mourners may be unconsciously communicating ourselves; those of us waxing rhapsodic over Notre Dame and how terribly tragic it all is and etc. may just be so loud that it's had the unexpected affect of sending a "how dare everyone not care about this" message as well. Something I'll be considering myself going forward.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


it would be great if the Notre Dame fire inspired more people to care more about historical sites outside of their own immediate sphere of familiarity! you definitely do not facilitate that outcome by making them feel shitty for caring about the historical sites they already care about, though!
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:15 AM on April 17 [14 favorites]


[A few comments deleted - please take meta discussion over to Metatalk. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:21 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What to do with the impossibility of moral consistency on this particular point is an interesting question. To me, the symbolic power of Notre Dame and the public, collective nature of it, is what makes it important. And, while I am by no means attributing this motivation or perspective to anyone here, the possibility is that prioritizing this project over others sends the message that European, Christian culture/heritage is of particular, unique value. That message is something that worries me in the extreme, given the political situation both here and in Europe. With that, I'll step away from this conversation.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:39 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Some super interesting specialist knowledge from the American Timber Framer's Guild.
posted by anastasiav at 10:05 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


A robotic note on Hackaday: “The Drones and Robots that Helped Save Notre Dame
posted by pharm at 10:12 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


seeing whose lives and histories matter,

So I think there's a thing that's happening, where you have different groups of people who are feeling feelings, and some of them are actually about Notre Dame, itself, and as a symbol, and others of them are feeling things about other discussion in the world that just happen to be getting brought up again.

The burning of Notre Dame is important and tragic in its own right to three groups of people: The French, Catholics, and people who love historical wonders of antiquity. I would at least hope that no one would begrudge these people their mourning.

Additionally and separately, Notre Dame is being used as a vehicle for talking about Things to various people. It's becoming about the power of God, or Western Civilization, or how we handle race and culture, or the fact that billionaires have a lot of money mostly sitting dormant, or the fact that we are not good at collectively protecting religious and cultural heritage.

But the thing is - those three groups of people referenced above are mostly not responsible for Notre Dame becoming a cause to argue about for those other people, (some of them good, some of them terrible) and these things don't really fit perfectly onto talking about Notre Dame.

Sure, some Catholics are seeing the saving of much of Notre Dame's holiest relics and most inspirational beauty as a response to the fervent prayers in the street, but they're not the ones pushing memes on Twitter about how 'now how can you say you don't believe in God' - that's evangelicals, who are seizing on this thing even though most any other time they believe Catholics are dangerous idolaters and make their voice very unpleasantly vocally known.

And even though the broad idea that things that matter to white people often get more press and attention than things that matter to nonwhite people and that is a real problem, this doesn't apply in the case specifically of Notre Dame. The vast majority of global Catholics who are mourning this tragedy are nonwhite, with 67% of the world's Catholics being in Central/South America, Asia, or Africa.

So I guess the question is - is it possible to separate this stuff, so that arguing and talking about these ideas (some of which are great, others that need to be defeated) take place outside the conversations of mourning for the three groups who are sincerely devastated by this loss?
posted by corb at 10:15 AM on April 17 [27 favorites]


Excerpt from anastasiav's neat link:
Shinto shrines in Japan are entirely rebuilt on a regular schedule, the Ise Grand Shrine every twenty years, 62 times. This is a radically different approach to maintenance than we are accustomed to here in the US or Europe, its critical function to train subsequent generations of craftspeople.

The longevity of these shrines rises from the spirit and continuity of their creators and supporters, not from a faith in persistent materiality alone.

- Adam Miller, Co-Editor, Timber Framing
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:41 AM on April 17 [19 favorites]


An interview: How France Can Rebuild Notre Dame, "an archaeological palimpsest," with advocacy for use of concrete ribs as in Reims in place of the timbers (Reims link goes to archive.org version as the original web page seems to be missing).
posted by exogenous at 11:37 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Give us bread AND rose windows.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:00 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


Prominent French conservation architect Pierluigi Pericolo told Inrocks magazine it could take triple that time.
     “No less than 15 years ... it’s a colossal task,” Pericolo said.

How much of those 15 years are humans sleeping at night, or waiting weeks/months for the completion of studies, outreach programs, lowest bid contractors waiting to submit until contract deadlines?

JFK got the US on the moon in a decade by specifying a goal of getting to the moon before the decade is over or we lose. It probably should have taken at least 3 times as long. It's seems like a leader specifying an aggressive deadline here can cut through a lot of barriers and help make things possible that normally should be expected to take a lot longer. Make it a national mandate that this be done swiftly and grandly, with no expense spared, for the sake of national pride, I think they could fix the roof in under 5 years.
posted by floam at 1:07 PM on April 17


It depends a lot on how many Apollo 1s you're willing to accept along the way.
posted by grahamparks at 1:45 PM on April 17


The burning of Notre Dame is important and tragic in its own right to three groups of people: The French

Every time there's news out of France people start talking about The French as if they were a Model UN delegation and not a diverse group of tens of millions of people with extremely different relationships to French history and Catholicism, who've had bloody conflicts over matters such as how much money should be spent on churches. Yes, of course, many French people are upset about the fire at Notre Dame. But France is also full of activists, communists, people whose countries have been colonised, exploited and brutalised by France, people with the noose of austerity tightening around their necks every day, and frankly people just concerned about the transparently unjust distribution of aid who can't relate to having fuzzier feelings about old buildings than human lives. That's not all French people, but it's most of the French people I know. If you think it's right that the people who control billions of dollars should happily spend it on this kind of thing while they otherwise argue humans in crisis don't deserve their help, OK. But don't say it's out of consideration for The French.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:51 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


It's seems like a leader specifying an aggressive deadline here can cut through a lot of barriers and help make things possible that normally should be expected to take a lot longer.

It can also lead to huge cost overruns, gaming of milestones to make the project seem further along than it is, and flouting of regulatory structures that puts people's lives at risk.
posted by praemunire at 2:22 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Izin Akhabau: Notre Dame Is Heartbreaking--But So Is France's Looting of Black History
I am forced to face the reality that mourning the Notre Dame so intensely is a profoundly elite exercise. A frank metaphor for where we stand in Europe today in terms of race and class. If burning buildings have people in them, you might have to wait a while for the government and local authorities to act.

If it contains historical artefacts, the government will be there right away – but it won’t matter anyway because there are billionaires ready to step in with their cheque books.
[...]

Drawing parallels is not always helpful, and it is certainly not a question of one or the other. Still, it would bring me joy if a politician could say with conviction that they would end the issue of homelessness in five years (as Macron said about repairing the Notre Dame).

Perhaps the cathedral fire gives us a unique opportunity to revisit what our culture values, and make sure it isn’t just artefacts of European origin. Perhaps it gives us a unique opportunity to remember that there are many different things and people worth saving.


The Grio: Why Black People Are Giving The Reactions To The Notre Dame Fire The Side-Eye.
posted by TwoStride at 2:28 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


For comparison, it took 3 years to fix the roof of the Nantes Cathedral (which had burned in 1972 in similar circumstances) so that the church could be reopened and "usable"... and the restoration is still going on, almost half a century later. The Parliament of Britanny also burned in 1994 during riots: it reopened after 5 years. I can see this happening too for Notre-Dame: barring serious structural problems, they could rebuild the roof and restore the cathedral in working condition within a few years, and then spend several decades fixing the gazillions things that were waiting to be fixed before the fire.

One personal anecdote: a some point in the late 1990s, my father's car was t-boned in a traffic roundabout in the south of Paris. It was a slow, very slow crash, resulting in a big dent in the right door of the car. The other driver, a young black man, told my dad that he could repair it, no need to call the insurance or pay anyone, so my dad followed him in the suburbs where the guy, who had a workshop, immediately proceeded to fix the door (successfully). It turns out that the man was a Haitian stone cutter named Délivrance Makingson Nespoulos, who was then working on restoring Notre-Dame and have since worked on restoring many other historical buildings (he's also known as a painter). Délivrance, who had been adopted at 3 and had lived in France all his life, later visited his biological parents in Haiti, who looked at his worker's hands and were horrified by what their son was doing: "I sent you abroad so that you could do something other than work as a labourer and here you are, slaving away on stones" (source, p. 34).
posted by elgilito at 2:38 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


> um:
"If you are video-game inclined, Assassin’s Creed: Unity replicates Notre Dame in gorgeous detail, which you can climb all over."

Assassin’s Creed Unity is free on PC
to highlight Notre-Dame and encourage donations.
Ubisoft also announced a €500,000 donation to aid the restoration and reconstruction of Notre-Dame. “In addition, we want to give everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how,” Ubisoft said in announcing the free game.
posted by zinon at 2:41 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Could someone please create a thread where people could mourn the damage to an irreplaceable part of the human heritage, and share details and talk about reconstruction and such?

I don't get the need to shit on things that other people like. I especially don't get it when it's a heartbreaking event for them. But till this is fixed, I'm out. Add "having human empathy about a terrible event" to the things Mefi doesn't do well.
posted by zompist at 2:53 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


I’m a recovering Catholic. I love Notre Dame. But for me, three Black churches were burned in the last month, on purpose, by racists, and they are doing gofundme to try and rebuild. No millionaires are lining up to put these congregations back together, but as much as I mourn the losses suffered in cultural heritage in Paris, I feel like my donations are better spent rebuilding churches white people destroyed on purpose.

It’s not a lack of empathy towards the heart of Paris, nor is it a lack of feeling for Mary’s greatest temple, nor is it a lack of empathy for everyone who feels their heart drop when they see the charred sky where the spire was.

But when the president of the United States says nothing about these fires, when Exxon, by far the largest exploiter of Louisiana and her people can’t be bothered to pony up a dime to help these congregations, then I find my empathy for a church with thirty BILLION dollars in ready cash to be lower than the three churches who need a few hundred thousand dollars so they can worship.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 4:04 PM on April 17 [10 favorites]


Black Churches Destroyed by Arson See Spike in Donations After Notre-Dame Fire. So at least some Americans are making the connection.

And for your daily dose of cultural relativism: After Notre Dame Blaze, Chinese Netizens Remember How the French Burned Down the Old Summer Palace. A summary of the Weibo discussion.
posted by Nelson at 4:50 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


For those who are up to it, a beautiful Catholic take from the American Jesuit Review: Where Was God When Notre Dame Was In Flames?
As the smoke poured from the medieval stone cathedral, flames leapt from the wooden roof and, in perhaps the most terrible moment, the ornate metal spire collapsed like a cinder, it was hard for many of us not to think of the suffering and death of Jesus. During his public crucifixion, just as yesterday, crowds of people looked on in horror—feeling powerless, overcome with grief and wondering what they could possibly do.

Among those people was Jesus’ mother, Our Lady: Notre Dame. Our Lady knows exactly what it is like to stand by and see someone you love suffer and die.

But Our Lady also knew that, somehow, God was with her in that time of grief. But we could well ask: Where was God yesterday in Paris?

The answer is: everywhere. God was there among the crowds kneeling, praying and singing the “Ave Maria” and the “Lourdes Hymn.” With each of those prayers and hymns, they were calling on Our Lady’s help, in front of her building. This was an expression of their deep faith, and so God was there.

God was there among the firefighters who selflessly rushed into a burning building that represents the spiritual heart of France. There is a parable right there. How much does God love us? As much as a firefighter who runs into a building on fire to save it.
posted by corb at 5:13 PM on April 17 [8 favorites]


A long time ago, my hometown library had old National Geographics laid out for the taking by anyone who wanted one. I grabbed quite a few that had stories and pictures that interested me. I also picked up a few at other places I don't now remember. They're all stashed in my mother's basement.

In one of them, I read a story about Notre Dame and the islands of the Seine. Reminded of it by events, after the fire, I did some Googling to see if I could find out which issue that story was in and if that issue is available online. Unfortunately National Geographic's archives require paying for an account. So I emailed my public library and asked if they had any deals for patrons. They don't, but the librarian who answered me asked for details and found the story, which National Geographic has placed online due to the fire. How convenient!

So here is the story with pictures from May of 1968.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:10 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


meanwhile, France, May 1968
posted by philip-random at 7:30 PM on April 17


I feel like my donations are better spent rebuilding churches white people destroyed on purpose.

I haven't seen anyone suggesting anyone is obligated to contribute, so what's your point? It seems a lot of people are coming into the thread to posture about how *their* charitable contributions are purer than any silly person who wants to rebuild Notre Dame. When in a world where children starve, deciding the important thing is to rebuild a *different* church building is no more justifiable. Congregations can meet just fine in an rented gym or even outside, after all. You care about different things, it doesn't make your choices superior.
posted by tavella at 9:09 PM on April 17 [14 favorites]


Earlier this evening, NYPD arrested a guy with "two gasoline cans, two bottles of lighter fluid and butane lighters" at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:43 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Izabella Kaminska of FTAlphaville: Of Notre Dame burning and signs of the times.

(If you don’t have a (free) FT account, I think you should be able to read it by bouncing via Google.)

Izabella (who is Catholic herself) writes about how the burning of Notre Dame feeds into the Fatima myths of more conservative parts of Catholicism.
posted by pharm at 7:13 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Assassin’s Creed Unity is free on PC to highlight Notre-Dame and encourage donations.

fucking what?

brb off to set fire to the pyramids
posted by um at 7:21 AM on April 18


An example of wood set aside specifically for restoration projects:

For USS Constitution, there is Constitution Grove, "located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana. The 25,000 acres (100 km2) now supply the majority of the white oak required for repair work."
posted by Fukiyama at 10:56 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]




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