When was the first time history took your breath away? When was the first time that you stood on site staring at a statue, at a building, and were left aghast simply by what was before you?
For some it is the World War One battlefields, for me it was Omaha beach at low tide on a school trip, for a lot of people however, it is now Notre-Dame. The heart of France, the place where all its roads are measured from its twin towers standing proud against the Parisian skyline, its spire standing tall over the city. On Monday though the spire had gone, the stained glass windows were ruined, and the two towers remain only because they are made of stone.
British news outlets such as LBC had prepared specials on French politics. President Macron was meant to address the French nation on national political matters. This week however, the French public is in shock and Paris must mourn once again the destruction of a church that was opened in 1345 and which took 182 years to complete after construction started in 1163.
It is a building which has survived desecration, which survived the French Revolution and two World Wars. In fact, the German’s planned to blow it up as the tide began to turn in the Second World War, but the German commander in charge of Paris decided to rebel against the order.
Below are some questions and answers we feel you may want to know.
What caused the fire?
Reports are scant but Notre-Dame had been undergoing restoration works in the same way Big Ben has, and the main theory is that the fire started as a result of an action centring around the scaffolding structure.
What was done in the short term?
The fire crews could only carry on doing their best to put the fire out, but the ability to reach the fire was limited. Notre-Dame is on the Il de la Cite, an island (accessible via bridges) in the middle of the Seine river. The firefighters however could only access it from the South Side.
Donald Trump had suggested using ‘flying water tankers’ to put it out, which involves getting aircrafts to drop large amounts of water on the flames. This a technique traditionally used to fight forest fires and seems logical, but there was a danger that the weight of the falling water would cause more damage alongside what the fire was already bringing.
What about the long term?
Well, presently it is a question of how long it takes to clean up and rebuild what has survived. The French President has pledged to rebuild the cathedral and generous donations have been pouring in from all over the world.
What are the ramifications of this? What about France?
The French public and indeed the world, are greatly hurt by what has happened. Whether deliberate or accidental this is a sad moment in human history. Notre-Dame means so much to so many and people around the world continue to be in shock.
In terms of ramifications? I suspect that there will be stricter rules on the restoration of these buildings; just think how Big Ben is smothered in scaffolding. France will certainly restore Notre-Dame to her former glory, with the helping hand of the whole world.