Notre-Dame

News of the Notre-Dame fire has deeply shocked people worldwide. Amidst the various reasons for it holding a deep-seated significance for many people, including religious, cultural and national, is Notre-Dame’s status as a Gothic icon. For art historians, amateur enthusiasts and casual onlookers alike, the prospect of losing the cathedral, its stained glass, its Cavaillé-Coll organ and the artworks inside, is nothing short of horrifying.

Notre-Dame, Pre-Fire (Photo: Francesca Vine)


Sitting down to dinner, I idly opened my newsfeed and gasped in horror at the breaking headline. The live footage was worse, showing billowing clouds and bright orange flames rising high above the cathedral. At first, the fire seemed to be contained to the transept, but soon after the spire had collapsed, crashing through the vaulting and onto the cathedral floor, it became clear that it had spread and was engulfing the entire roof of the nave. Images captured by drones showed an infernal fire pit. Ironically, this was positive as it meant the stone vaulting was still supporting the majority of the flaming roof, save for the hole left by the spire. Official outlets played its collapse on repeat, but were scarce on any real news, leaving many desperately scouring social media for information on the state of the interior. French government sources gave a bleak outlook, with the French deputy interior minister announcing that saving the cathedral was “not certain” and French fire services announcing that they were “not sure” if the fire could be stopped.


The vast crowds that assembled in the Parisian streets looked on in helpless horror, many in tears, as firefighters battled desperately to rescue what they could from the interior while simultaneously stopping the fire from spreading to the iconic towers. Flames were, at one point, visible in the North tower, but this fire was later confirmed to have been extinguished. Finally, the fire service announced that the structure of the building had been saved and shortly afterwards, the first images of the interior began to appear on Twitter. Inaccurate reports that the vaulting had collapsed, and the interior bur