Before and After: A devastated art world wept and watched as Notre Dame burned
Updated : April 16, 2019 10:34 AM IST
Notre Dame, a survivor of wars and revolutions, has stood for centuries as not merely the greatest of the Gothic cathedrals and a towering jewel of Western architecture.
It has stood, in the words of one shell-shocked art expert, as "one of the great monuments to the best of civilization."
And so it was that across the globe Monday, a stunned and helpless art world wept alongside the people of France as a massive fire ravaged the beloved cathedral.
Construction on Notre Dame — French for "Our Lady" — began in the 12th century and continued for nearly 200 years. It sustained damage and fell into neglect during the French Revolution, but received renewed attention following the 1831 publication of Victor Hugo's novel "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame." This led to two decades of restorations, including the cathedral's famous flying buttresses and a reconstructed spire.
While most kings were crowned elsewhere, Napoleon Bonaparte made sure he was crowned there in 1804, and married there in 1810.
The exact cause of the blaze wasn't known, but French media quoted the fire brigade as saying it was "potentially linked" to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church's spire and its 250 tons of lead. The Paris Prosecutor's office, which was investigating, said it was treating it as an accident.
Aside from the structure, art experts were concerned about the fate of countless priceless artworks and artifacts inside, including relics like the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed. The mourning was not limited to the art world. Religious leaders, too, expressed deep sorrow over the devastation.
Those worried about the cathedral's durability could, perhaps, take solace in one of Notre Dame's more fascinating survival stories. In 1977, workers demolishing a wall in another part of Paris discovered 21 heads belonging to 13th-century statues from the cathedral. The kings of Judea, which were a prime example of Gothic art, had been taken from Notre Dame during the French Revolution and guillotined by antiroyalists who mistakenly thought they represented French kings