Science News reports that archaeologists are among the more than 200 researchers in the Association of Scientists in Service of the Restoration of Notre Dame of Paris, France’s National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), and the French Ministry of Culture who will examine the twelfth-century cathedral damaged by fire.
There’s little documentation of the building process of Notre Dame, which began in 1163 and continued for about 200 years. Olivier de Châlus has devoted himself to teasing out the unwritten rules of construction — how builders decided the size of columns or the height of flying buttresses, for example. He notes that builders lifted 100-kilogram stones more than 60 meters off the ground without the benefits of modern technology. Exactly how this was accomplished has been lost to time, he says.
As architects, builders and historians begin the process of rebuilding Notre Dame, Brian Katz, an acoustics researcher at CNRS, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Sorbonne University in Paris, is on a mission to help restore the building’s sonic signature.
Eric Wirth, vice president of the Guild of French Architects, declared that it would be a grave mistake to rebuild the roof in anything but same wood used in its original construction. He noted its natural fire resistance. “Notre Dame has been there for 800 years. If the structure had been made of steel, there would be no cathedral to speak of today,” he said. In a fire, “iron holds for half an hour, an hour, and then writhes, pulls on the walls and collapses everything.”
Scientists with the French national research organization CNRS are embarking on a multimillion-euro effort to study the 850-year-old building and its materials with the goal of illuminating how it was constructed.
The simple answer is that we don’t know yet.
The news comes two months after the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Michel Aupetit, announced that a final evaluation of the damage would be concluded in Spring 2020. “We will have to encircle the scaffolding, then put a second scaffolding over it,” he said. “From this new scaffolding, workers will descend by rope and cut it bit by bit into small pieces and this will take a long time.”
The Notre Dame Cathedral is at risk of collapse, according to the army general tasked with overseeing its restoration. General Jean-Louis Georgelin said the cathedral is “not saved yet” as work begins to repair the structure
The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral, Patrick Chauvet, says the Paris landmark is still so fragile that there’s a “50% chance” the structure might not be saved, because scaffolding installed before this year’s fire is threatening the vaults of the Gothic monument.
Well they may not be having a traditional Christmas at Notre Dame this year but that doesn’t mean anyone should miss out on having a great time.
A very merry Christmas to everyone and may 2020 be a good year.
And there may be another podcast soon…
The flames had barely been extinguished on the night of April 15th, 2019 when donations from around the world began pouring in to help with the rebuilding of Notre-Dame cathedral. But eight months on and the building remains swathed in scaffolding and officials have confirmed that there will be no Christmas Mass held there this year, for the first time in more than 200 years.
So what now?