In the spring of 2019, the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris ignited in flames. Despite the disaster, it remained standing. Do you know why? According to Lisa Reilly, an associate professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia and a scholar of medieval architecture, “It’s designed so that if the roof burns off, it’s hard for [the fire] to spread to the rest of the building…. In the Middle Ages, the thought was that stone vaults [could be] used to prevent the spread of fire.”
The collapse of the roof is also not necessarily a threat to the integrity of the building. In 12th- and 13th-century buildings of this type, the walls are held in place by flying buttresses. “Basically, it’s a structural exoskeleton, with the support system largely on the outside of the building,” Reilly says. Another bit of good news, original construction of Notre Dame took place in 1163 to 1345. During that era, the walls were built thicker than they would have been 50 or 60 years later.
- Has anyone here ever visited the Notre Dame Cathedral? Why do you think it’s so often visited? (The Cathedral is one of the premiere tourist sites in Paris—approximately 13 million people visit it each year. It was built 800 years ago and demonstrates the unique architecture of the Middle Ages. It also contains a large amount of artwork and religious artifacts.)
- The collapse of the roof didn’t necessarily threaten the integrity of the building. Why is the foundation of a building more important than its accessories or façade? (The foundation determines the structural strength of the entire building. Most of the outer materials are just showpieces.)
The restoration work on the famous cathedral is currently underway. Let’s take a look.
Play the following video clip for your students [3:41; stop at 2:45]:
An Exclusive Look At The Restoration Of The Notre Dame Cathedral
The foundation of that great cathedral is a “vault” built of stone—joined together in such a way to produce endurance. Today we are going to take a look at what holds the Church—the Body of Christ—together.