Notre Dame: update, rebuilding

57419045_10157231869641683_7814424551026065408_oWell, that post on Notre Dame took off, so I thought I’d update you on what is going on now. First off, the vault is more damaged than I thought at first, but the main transverse arches held, and they’ll be able to repair it. The structure is sound. The architects were concerned because the way it’s built, it’s a tension, with the weight of the roof pressing outward and the flying buttresses pressing inward, like the two halves of a stepladder. They were worried that with some of the vault gone and not pushing back, the flying buttresses might push in strongly enough to knock down the rest of the church. But it looks like that’s not going to happen. The main transverse arches can push back strongly enough to carry the weight.

The rose windows seem to all be intact, and here I want to especially thank the firefighters who carried out the plan they had prepared. Apparently they got a special boat into the Seine, used it to pump water up to the cathedral, and kept water running on the stained glass rose windows throughout the fire so they wouldn’t get hot and melt. Spectacular job!


A lot of people have been concerned about where the oak wood would come from to rebuild the “forest”, the tangle of wooden beams above the stone vault that held the roof tiles. That’s also not going to be a problem. The French government owns thousands of acres of protected national forest. These are the old royal forests that have been protected since around the time the cathedrals were built. They’ve got plenty of old oaks in them, especially in the Limousin and Franche-Comté. Those trees are not available to build you a house, but they can rebuild the cathedral.

That said, it will take a while. The oaks have to be selected and cut down, and then the wood has to be aged for about ten years before it will be dry enough to use for beams. So they’ll probably put a temporary structure in place in the meantime.

A lot of people have been pointing out that there are lots of worthy causes in the world besides this one cathedral – protecting Bear’s Ears National Monument, rebuilding and protecting black churches, clean water for Flint, Michigan, and so on. I guess I feel that it’s not either/or, and we shouldn’t let ourselves be set against each other like that. There is plenty of money in the world to do all of those things, and we should support each other in making sure all of them get done.

Finally, they’ve announced a competition to design the new spire, and I think that will be the most exciting part of this – a new spire! A modern design! I can’t wait to see the results.

Gotta go get ready for our Passover seder Friday night; we’re driving up to Maine to celebrate with old friends.

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