• SENSEX
    NIFTY 50
Politics

Before and After: A devastated art world wept and watched as Notre Dame burned

Updated : 2019-04-16 10:34:41

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

Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow-brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the centre of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow-brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the centre of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A firefighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A firefighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A firefighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rise while Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A firefighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rise while Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Flames and smoke rise as the spire on Notre Dame cathedral collapse in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Diana Ayanna)
Flames and smoke rise as the spire on Notre Dame cathedral collapse in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Diana Ayanna)
Flames and smoke rise as the spire on Notre Dame cathedral collapse in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Diana Ayanna)
Flames and smoke rise as the spire on Notre Dame cathedral collapse in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Diana Ayanna)
Smoke is seen around the altar inside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
Smoke is seen around the altar inside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo)
Plumes of smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo)
Plumes of smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo)
People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Flames rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Flames rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
A firefighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rises from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A firefighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rises from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rises from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rises from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning from the Seine river banks in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning from the Seine river banks in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
This 1911, file photo shows the Notre Dame Cathedral, on the island called Ile de la Cite in Paris. Art experts around the world reacted with horror to news of the fire that ravaged cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/File)
This 1911, file photo shows the Notre Dame Cathedral, on the island called Ile de la Cite in Paris. Art experts around the world reacted with horror to news of the fire that ravaged cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/File)
This April 18, 1967, file photo, shows the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. One shell-shocked art expert is calling the beloved Gothic masterpiece ‘one of the great monuments to the best of civilization.’ (AP Photo/File)
This April 18, 1967, file photo, shows the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. One shell-shocked art expert is calling the beloved Gothic masterpiece ‘one of the great monuments to the best of civilization.’ (AP Photo/File)
This 1987 file photo shows the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 2019. 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. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
This 1987 file photo shows the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 2019. 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. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
Live TV

Ask Our Experts CNBC TV18