As Millions Watch in Horror, Notre Dame Cathedral Burns… But ‘We Will Rebuild’

As many of you know and watched in horror last week, the roof of the cathedral caught on fire during renovation and rehabilitation efforts. It nearly burned the cathedral to the ground.

While grief-stricken people around the globe watched, the cathedral suffered serious damage. During the 15-hour ordeal, the iconic timber spire over the crossing was destroyed. As was most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the stone vaulted ceiling.

Fortunately, many of the most valuable religious relics and cultural treasures escaped harm.

According to a cathedral rector, a computer glitch may have started the devastating blaze. French police officials believe a short-circuit is to blame.

Most-Visited Monument in Paris

Regardless of what created this tragedy, billions of people around the world were struck by the horrific scene.

People of all faiths were saddened by the catastrophe. Especially the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

The cathedral is the most-visited monument in Paris. Approximately 12 million people visit annually.

Much of its popularity among tourists began after the 1831 publication of the novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was written by Victor Hugo. Also, Joan of Arc was beautified there in 1909 by Pope Pius X. Among many other pieces and events of history.

Where it All Began

In 1163, construction on the Notre-Dame de Paris – commonly known today as the Notre Dame Cathedral or Our Lady of Paris – began. That was more than 850 years ago.

Construction required close to 200 years. The building has been modified numerous times since then. It is located on a small island called the Ile de la Cite in the River Seine.

Consecrated to the Virgin Mary, it is considered one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture.

Among the many events taking place there through the centuries was the coronation of Napoleon I as emperor of France in 1804. As well as the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord, in 1821. And the funerals of several Third French Republic presidents.

Bells and Organs Survive

Among the cathedral’s many attractions are its bells and organs. The bourdon bell known as Emmanuel in the South Tower weighs more than 13 tons.

The North Tower contains the other four bells. Prior to the 20th century, they were rung by hand. More recently, electric motors handle the task.

Many organs were installed in the cathedral through the centuries. The most famous of which was reconstructed in the 1730s. It was reportedly undamaged by last week’s fire.

This grand organ has more than 8,000 pipes, five keyboards and 115 stops. Twelve of those pipes date back to before the 18th century reconstruction.

Although this organ was fully electrified in in 1959, it maintains historic elements. For example, air is still blown through the pipes by bellows made of sheep leather.

Precedent for Restoration

The Notre Dame Cathedral sustained “colossal damage.” That’s according to spokesman Andre Finot. But other famous historical sites have been restored following devastation. Thanks to the tireless labor of skilled architects and builders.

They include Windsor Castle in England. A fire in 1992 damaged 100 rooms in the gothic estate. It served as a residence for Queen Elizabeth II.

Another is Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California. The 1906 earthquake there created numerous fires. One of them burned the third largest cathedral in the U.S. It was rebuilt from 1928 to 1964.

Others include Slane Castle in Ireland and Cologne Cathedral in Germany. Plus Old St. Paul’s in England and the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Over $1 Billion in Pledges

What’s next for the Notre Dame Cathedral? French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the site.

Already, more than $1 billion has been pledged for the restoration of this iconic landmark.

Much of that is coming from the three wealthiest families in France. One of their fashion companies has pledged $565 million. The others pledged $226 million and $113 million.

First steps will be protecting the structure from additional water damage. Next, detailed plans must be drawn up and approved.

Years of Work Ahead

How long will it take to completely restore the cathedral? It’s estimated at least five years.

After it was burned in 1996, the Venice Opera House reopened eight years later. It took five years to reopen Windsor Castle.

However long or how much it takes, I’m betting the cathedral will someday be even more spectacular than ever.

Mankind’s spirit to rebuild and restore has been proven many times. We’ll do whatever it takes to turn tragedy into treasure.

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