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Notre-Dame cathedral: Firefighters tackle blaze in Paris (bbc.co.uk)
987 points by kragniz 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 521 comments

I had the privilege of undertaking the first (and now the last..) study on the spire of Notre Dame since 1933.

The restoration works that were under place are a result in part of our recommended actions.

The spire was incredible. It was one oak trunk, connected with a "Scarf Joint", or "Jupitre" in French (Bolt-of-lightning joint)

There were the names of the last guys to inspect it in the 1930s, engraved at the top. There was a french ww2 bullet embedded in the spire, presumably shot at a germany sniper who was in the spire...

Everything in the roof was antique wood. Anyone that went into the roof was paranoid of fire.

It's a very, very sad day.

As a celebration, I'm throwing up some photos that we'd never published from our study.


I cannot imagine how you feel right now. I've only been inside once two years ago, and I am devastated to see this structure burn.

Can you perhaps comment on what restoration work may have caused this?

Individually, it feels like an intimate acquaintance has died, and collectively it is a huge loss.

Over the weeks we'd spent on the spire, we photographed and documented literally every square centimeter of the spire and roof space.

Outside of its intrinsic value, the spire also held religious relics (Thorn from the Crown of Thorns etc..). They were apparently contained in the wind-vane on the top of the crow's nest.

We were unable to access the crow's nest - the last 3 ladder rungs (the spire had iron foot pegs every 50cm or so up one side) had been removed - ( presumably to stop people from getting to the relics ) - and there was no way we could get access without installing scaffolding.

There was so much hidden detail on the roof - works that would never be seen from the ground - invisible to everyone but the workers and artisans. Truly a loss.

As for the cause, there would be some solace in an 'unavoidable' situation - I just hope it wasn't someone discarding a cigarette butt.

> we photographed and documented literally every square centimeter of the spire and roof space.

Are all those photos available somewhere?

Just a point in clarification: when you say antique, that means mid 19th century. The original 13th century spire was removed in 1786 because it was falling apart.

Apologies, I wasn't using 'antique' in a quantitative fashion, simply trying to convey that it was aged and dry. With that said, I was referring specifically to the carpentry in the roof itself, which dates before the spire itself.

The smell of the roof space was incredible - deep, wooden and wise.

André Finot, the spokesperson of Notre-Dame de Paris, announced soon after the fire was known that the roof's wood frame was doomed. This frame was in two parts: one side from oak beams of the 13th century, the other half from the 19th. Of course, the spire was in later part, since it was built by Viollet-Le-Duc.

To prevent fire, there was no electricity wires in attic, because the oak beams were extremely dry.

> when you say antique, that means mid 19th century

Where is that coming from?

I don't see any definitions that constrains antique to a specific time window, some definitions/laws include "at least 100 years old"

Antique: a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago

[0] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antique

They meant that antique means "only" 19th century in this case because that's when the spire was installed. It's not as antique as the rest of the cathedral.

Thanks for sharing the photos. It's an incredible tragedy. I had the privilege of visiting Notre Dame twice, but I'm deeply saddened for all those who will not have the opportunity to see it in its former magnificent form, including my own young children. I only hope that some of it will remain and be a foundation for rebuilding.

This is awesome - thanks for sharing your story, and that photo. I'm sure that the detailed studies performed by you and others will be invaluable going forward - both with remembering and healing, and eventually perhaps, rebuilding.

With my sympathy for this tremendous loss, but could you comment on the accuracy of this report on the amount of lead metal in the spire (or is it the entire roof?)

> The 3-meter-tall statues are being sent to southwestern France for work that is part of a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the cathedral spire and its 250 tons of lead.


The Bells of Notre Dame:



It'll be decades, but if I'm very lucky enough to live very long, I may hear those peals myself.

The bells really are something when hearing in person. What a loss.

Did you feel any need to engrave your own names for the next inspectors?

I felt the desire, but didn't feel the need.

Have any pictures of the wood or joints or signatures that you mention?

My partner shot the inside of the spire, but I have a few quick shots.

On one of the sides I did - there were the traces of what we could only assume to be some type of explosion (probably a stray explosive from WW2 ..?).

There are also the eagles that were halfway up the spire. Curiously enough, there were six, each one had a number stamped on its head - if you traced the numbers, it made a star composed of 2 equilateral triangles.

It seems the North Tower has since caught fire as well - so the bells will have gone, and all of the stored relics too - so some photos of those.


The bells are in the South Tower, iirc.

No, they're in the North Tower. The bells are suspended in a wooden structure that is free-standing, and free moving inside the stone structure.

This allows free movement when the bells are ringing, without stressing the stones.

It was a priority to extinguish the north tower fire to prevent the bell structure from collapsing - the falling bells would have destroyed the stone structures on the way down, presumably triggering the collapse of both towers..

Is it possible that the stone parts of the structure will be more resilient than the (apparently) wooden roof, and might survive if the fire is put out quickly enough?

Yes, the vertical structures are likely to survive. See any number of photos of post-WW2 cities.

It’s debatable, however, how much that means. I suspect it serves more of a symbolic purpose, as a kernel of truth to a shared future fiction that the building is at least partially “original”.

In terms of costs, I suspect integrating those structures is likely to be more expensive than rebuilding from scratch. The loss is also greater than just the building, as it contained a multitude of art, some of it part of the structure like the famous stained glass windows, some not.

Costs aside, how much time would it be necessary to repair this cathedral? Years?

Also no expert, but from the cases I remember, actual construction is rather fast.

What takes time is often the financing: there are churches in Germany where, to this day they are collecting money and constructing piece-by-piece. I don’t know how this will play out here. For example: how much is the Catholic Church still involved? But I would assume the French state to be somewhat generous.

The other potentially delaying question is how to reconstruct. Going for an exact replica often feels anachronistic and sometimes tacky. The German Reichstag, for example, was reconstructed with a rather modern glass rotunda, and feels like a great example of combining old and new. The World Trade Centre was replaced by something entirely new. If they decide to go in such a direction, some time will be spent on architects’ competitions.

In France, the question of financing the reconstruction is rather simpler: Notre-Dame like most churches in France is owned by the State, so the State and the citizens will pay for it.

The reconstruction will be a restoration, to what degree, it remains to be seen, for example Reims Cathedral roof was rebuilt using concrete for the structure, but the general appearance will remain the same.

The symbolic is rather different that of the Reichtag, the Reichtag being the symbol of a new state in the XIXe century, destroyed during its darkest hour, and finally reconstructed after the rebirth of Germany and the Reunification with a mix of old and new, By itself the Reichtag summarizes German history.

>how much is the Catholic Church still involved? But I would assume the French state to be somewhat generous.

Nowadays churches in France belong to the city, not the Church. Which has led to many tragedies recently, with town halls (usually Communist) intentionally neglecting churches until there was no choice but to destroy them. I don't have any faith in the French state these days to be consistent with monuments.

Notre-Dame will be restored, it's too much of a symbol. However, the money will have to be found somewhere, and there is a good chance that it will mean other restoration projects for "lesser" historical buildings will be delayed (maybe dangerously) and subsidies from the Ministry of Culture for artists and art projects will be reduced.

Alternatively, there's a chance the tragedy will prompt efforts to better preserve more historical buildings.

I'm not the person to ask (I was there as a photographer and rope worker) - but my partner estimates decades. It depends on the extent of the damage. For the moment, it seems that the entire building will be gutted - and presumably structurally unsound. If it has to be rebuilt from scratch - look to the Sagrada Familia for a time reference..

The Sagrada Familia was attacked by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War, who destroyed Gaudí's study and the plans and models for the church. Decades were spent just reconstructing the project before actual construction could resume. In Notre Dame's case, there is much better documentation on the structure, so hopefully it won't take quite as long.

The latest news said that the structure is mostly saved.

Looking at some aerial pictures (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D4OFOKMWkAEEHsz.jpg), it looks like the vault is holding except maybe for the section above the transept area (where the spire collapsed), but it has probably suffered, if not from the collapse of the roof, the heat has probably weakened it.

But yes, one or two decades of restoration is a realistic estimation, it's roughly what it took for other cathedrals to be restored (Rouen, Reims) after the World Wars (hopefully Notre-Dame will be in a better state after the disaster)

It looks like some sections of the vault did collapse:


The Sagrada is not a good example as it is more complex than traditional gothic. Part of the original plans were supposedly unsound and several architects intervened over the decades. But granted, we're still probably talking decades.

We still haven't finished fixing the cathedral of Reims that was heavily damaged during World War I...

Hopefully things will move faster with Notre-Dame de Paris, but it'll take at least decades.

The Reims Cathedral was reopened in 1938 (about 20 years after the start of the restoration).

But in this kind of restoration, the devil is in the details, repairing the structure and rebuilding the roof and the spire will probably take around 8 to 10 years, if the vault is not in too bad of a shape, more otherwise. But repairing the the sculptures and decoration, with all their minutes details will take generations.

For these, what was not destroyed by the fire is probably heavily damaged by the tons of waters poured to save the edifice.

> In terms of costs, I suspect integrating those structures is likely to be more expensive than rebuilding from scratch.

Respectfully, you have no idea what you are talking about. Nobody in Europe would consider tearing down the remaining structures and rebuilding from scratch because it's cheaper.

The roof is not made of wood, but like most old European buildings, its frame is made of wood.

Above the vaults of stone, a wooden frame supports the roof which is covered with metal (zinc). This is obviously lighter, and easier to build and to maintain than a roof made of stone. Unfortunately, after a few centuries it becomes extremely burnable.

safe !!

Maybe California could donate some fire-resistant redwood for the rebuilding?

No thanks. If we have any redwood left to be used for building, I'd rather have them go to the better attended local cathedrals, than a cathedral that is really no longer used.

What do you mean, not used? Mass was celebrated daily, and it's in active use as a place of worship.... or was, sadly

I mean that Notre Dame, while certainly still a cathedral, is not very active. I've been to daily Mass in Notre Dame, and it was completely underpopulated, when compared to other, poorer cathedrals I've been to, including in my own state.

I've been to many Catholic locales, and there are many poor Catholic artisans who would be willing to create beautiful Catholic art if they had resources. I'd rather they get the resources, than some secular artisan simply trying to copy Catholic art.

I would rather see resources go to actual Catholics to be used in an actual Catholic place of worship that is frequented and populated than to non-Catholic artisans attempting to mimick Catholic beauty to restore a building that is not actually used.

The fact is that the well-loved parish stands a chance of becoming a Notre Dame of the future, whereas, Notre Dame itself is likely to fade away and become a museum, unless the people of France actually decide to become Catholic again.

The truth is that, it was the underlying belief in the Catholic world view that made Notre Dame the legend it is today (the constant creation of beauty, the grandeur, the preservation through the ages). No amount of money to secular authorities can possibly recreate that exact mythos, whereas it could if sent to another diocese that still practiced.

EDIT: perhaps I'm wrong and Notre dame is more active than I thought and I just visited at a bad time, but from what I've read, there's not many actual Catholics in France, at least when compared to California.

Please just stop. Even your attempt at mitigation through edit is wrong, and it would have been trivial for you to correct your misapprehension. There are an estimated 10 million Catholics in California compared to between 27-58 million in France. Besides, the value of the place as a cultural institution visited by 13m+ a year just to see it isn’t something you should dismiss along with its centuries of cultural significance just because it offends your religious sensibilities.

It’s also a miserable stance to take while the place is still literally on fire.

The state government set up Jackson Demonstration Forest specifically to show people how to sustainably harvest from a redwood grove. Notre Dame is a cultural icon, I'm sure the French would appreciate the gesture.

But northern California has its own share of historic churches that could use the timber

For those asking about why there isn't visible water being sprayed on the fire... There's no point. Any firefighting efforts are focused on preventing the spread of the fire to other structures (potentially other parts of the same structure)

As a rule of thumb, the water flow necessary to extinguish a burning structure is the volume of the structure (in feet) divided by 100. The resulting number is (in rough numbers) the amount of water you need, in gallons per minute. For a fire this size, you're looking at tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute. It's just not possible.

The other thing those people might consider, and this includes our president, is that they aren't firefighters, have no idea what to do, and surely live in a place unequal to Paris in any parameter upon which you'd care to compare. IT'S PARIS. They're in Paris. And to paraphrase Chevy Chase: You're not. They know what they're doing. Imagine you're the Paris fire chief. That's like being the NYC fire chief. Such a person has a distaste for explaining to superiors why they mismanaged a firefighting operation, and has a lifetime of experience, and hence, tends to manage it properly.

"Must act quickly!" Ya think? Hopefully the fire department in Paris, France is listening for gems like that from out here in the boonies / the ghetto hemisphere. How many medieval churches are there on our whole continent? Call us if you want a church bombed.

(edited slightly in response to child comments)

Wow. He’s not trying to give anyone advice. He only wants people to talk about him while they’re talking about this news piece.

Shoot, you're probably right, and I fell for it. I guess the unintended consequence of my strict "ignore" policy over the last 3 years, is that I'm still a novice 3 years later. (Rarely do I see those brainfarts, but this one was unfortunately quoted in an article.)

It would be nice if there was somewhere to find high quality news reporting that avoided toxic stuff like tweets. I'm not sure what that embedded tweet adds to this BBC story besides getting people worked up over something that's totally unrelated. You'd think Notre Dame burning down would be enough.

Maybe a more optimistic interpretation is that people naturally want to try to help and would rather speak up than feel helpless even if their advice is not particularly good or useful.

This comment is not constructive and paints a false narrative.

It's complaining about a certain ignorant disrespect I've seen personally today, so I see it as corrective and therefore constructive. But I think I get what you're saying, though your comment is a little threadbare; I'd be interested in your full argument/reasoning.

EDIT: I added a few words to the grandparent post to try to make my intent clearer.

There was nothing disrespectful about Trump's tweet. I find it strange that you can't use his name, as if it's somehow shameful. That's disrespect to me.

I really wasn't monitoring my use of the name. Though obviously I am now. Anyway you guessed right: My lack of respect for the guy we're talking about is so deep and vast that this forum won't tolerate my going into it. And rightly so, because ultimately it's boring as heck.

Actually I think I was, if anything, charitably conferring tons of undue respect on that guy, by calling him "our president," thereby not only acknowledging his office but accepting him as "ours," both of which are more than some are willing to do. Ya can't please some people I guess.

Try being nicer - had you left off the "womp womp" you'd be leaving a perfectly respectful opinion. With it, you just sound like a jerk.

You know what, I think I agree with you. Edited. Thanks for the feedback.

However, I'd like to use this opportunity to plug Valee's "Womp Womp". Check it out on Spotify!

Not enough people on the internet read what they're saying outloud before posting. I blame this on the low quality of discourse on the intnernet. You're very welcome by the way.

It was disrespectful because donald, the self-proclaimed expert on all the things, doesn't understand what he is suggesting, and doesn't understand that what he is suggesting is not helping anyone/anything except his ego.

Speaking as a firefighter, I found Trump's suggestion that they should "act fast" to be pretty disrespectful.

Do you like to take your time when you put out fires?

I once had a neighbor whose house burned. From the outside it definitely looked like the fire crews were taking their time arriving, setting up camp, preparing, aiming, etc. But maybe acting intelligently isn't always the same as acting quickly.

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Now by the transitive property, slow is fast. That doesn't sound right, Hoss.

No, and that's the point. How would you feel if I publicly told you to do some basic function of your job?

If the POTUS tweeted at me, "Code like the wind! Very important!", I'd be excited.

> Call us if you want a church bombed.

Makes sense. French fire departments are branches of the military.

Edit: just the Parisian and one other fire service are set up this way.

You are right, the others are from Marseille.

In the news they said that firefighters are entering the building to save as much art as possible before spraying water.

(The news networks are pretty much as clueless to the situation as everyone else, so take with a grain of salt)

Edit: They are now spraying the stone structures.

I wonder how the firefighters feel about risking their lives for art, as opposed to other lives. I'm not saying I wouldn't risk human lives for certain works of art, but I can imagine some boots on the ground feeling salty about it.

I am a firefighter. Salvage operations are part of every fire (usually after the bulk of the fire is under control, but given sufficient manpower it also happens concurrently with fire attack operations).

They're not going to take huge risks. Any environment that would be extremely dangerous would be an area where any art has already been destroyed.

Swiss firefighters work on the four priorities of save lives, stop the fire, protect property from damage (including livestock), and protect the environment. Once lives and the spread of fire are under control, reducing the cost to the victims (emotional and financial) are why they are there.

Firefighter and sysadmin! Great mixture.

Also a paramedic and developer. You can imagine that the firefighting experience comes in handy a lot.

Thanks for your perspective.

Consider the Syrian archaeologist that hid artifacts from ISIL and refused to give them up. He gave his life and was tortured to death to preserve those artifacts [0].

How many human lives and human energy went into Notre Dame? How many lives would its continued existence inspire? Humans are far more temporary than art and culture. Art and culture connects us to the people that came before us.

[0]: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

I guess it boils down to the question: Would you give your own life to save the artworks of Notre Dame?

It's a pretty personal question. I admire the archaeologist you described, but I believe no one should feel obligated to do the same thing.

Engaging in an activity with greater risk of killing you than usual is not the same as "giving one's life". These guys already fight fires for their day job. One more little bit of exposure to increased risk doesn't change the overall odds that much.

Indeed. I just thought of a better version for that question:

How much risk would you be willing to take to save the artworks of Notre Dame?

If there's even a small but significant risk to one's life then nobody should feel obligated to do it.

If a friend of yours called you and said "Hey, can you come pick up this painting I love before my house gets demolished?" would you drive over to pick it up?

Everyone in this thread is focused on whether or not the firefighters think the risk is worth it to save artwork. You're overlooking the fact that the sort of person who signs up to fight fires gets a rush out of being in a burning building in the first place. Saving the art is just a bonus...

I wouldn’t. And Paris shouldn’t hire me to be a firefighter.

"Art and culture connects us to the people came before us."

I think that's the best explanation I've ever heard for why art and culture are so important.

Humans are a species of coral that over generations builds massive architectures of culture, science, math and art.

But it’s not the whole story. If we had no connection to the past, it would feel like there’s no way to ever have a connection to the future, and thus it would feel pointless to do anything that is not entirely contained within your life time. Humanity would then become a very short term thinking species, and no great work or progress would ever be done.

While true, one should keep in mind that preservation is ultimately a futile endeavor. Nothing last forever. And yes, obviously that statement also applies to human life, but I'm certainly not going to judge anyone for refusing to endanger themselves for a painting.

PS: I had no idea it was so controversial to forgive people for not risking their lives for an inanimate object.

"Nothing lasts forever" is technically true, but I'm sure I don't need to point out how useless this statement is when it comes to making decisions. In situations like this fire, responders need to balance their own assessment of personal risk against the value of saving a given inanimate object.

Some people will categorically shy away from any perceived risk to their own safety, even if the estimated chance of saving a valuable object is very high. At the other extreme, some people would endure suffering and death to save what they recognize as priceless artifacts of history and culture.

I think many people interpret your comment as devaluing the choice that some people make to take such risks.

If your argument is that we shouldn't criticize people for choosing not risk their for inanimate objects, can you point to such criticism in this thread? I haven't seen any.

I can see how my comment could be read that way, because it's kinda what I'm saying. The parent comment heavily implies that preserving culture, via the physical existence of artistic works, is worth more than a human life because it is just oh-so-important. If you really think your life is worth sacrificing to save these artifacts, well, I disagree. What they represent doesn't go away just because they do.

Sure, if you don't care about art, or national pride, you might not get it.

Put it this way... would you run into a burning building to try to save the Declaration of Independence? (Assuming you're an American) Would most firefighters? Seems reasonable to me. The art inside the Notre Dame is on that level of importance, to France and to civilization itself.

> would you run into a burning building to try to save the Declaration of Independence?

What matters about the DoI are the ideas, not the original piece of paper.

isn't it just a piece of paper already scanned it very high quality? by burning it you are not really opposing any information value

no piece of paper/art and especially national pride is worth someone's health

I live in fourth most visited city in Europe and I couldn't care less if most touristy church burned down, it's just church, people are overly dramatic, most important it's nobody died and whatever will be outcome life will go on tomorrow and in two weeks nobody will remember about it in news

Most people would disagree with you. Many would act at risk of their own lives to save treasures that they feel are part of their national identity or human civilization.

Just because you don't feel that way doesn't mean they're all wrong.

I guess most of those people you describe are childless minority or people too young without children mumbling idealistic phrases

any sane parent would think twice risking his life over a THING. risking life to save other (strangers) lives it's questionable, risking life to save things it's just stupid

Push your logic a little farther. Any sane parent would think twice about risking their life for their child's life. Now push another direction... if you'd sacrifice your own life for your child, what about for someone else's child? A few years ago, I ran into the street in front of a moving car to try to save a child I didn't even know. I wouldn't have made it on time; luckily the car saw the child and slammed the brakes in time. But it's interesting to find just how deep one's own altruism will go. (Also interestingly, I did this in front of my spouse and our own children)

There's nothing unusual for being willing to die for a THING. Hell, people have sacrificed themselves in the millions for mere ideas. People fight to the death over tiny scraps of symbolic land.

It may seem stupid to you. It's stupid to me, too. But that's what people do. That's what people are.

millions also voted for trump, Hitler or believe earth it's flat, just because many people do stupid things doesn't make it good/rational, most of the society it's stupid/irrational, that's just fact (sadly democracy with equal voting rights it's best we came with), just because they are in majority doesn't make their acts right unless you identify with them, then good for you and feel free to ignore facts

as for saving someone's else child I would most likely not do it if I would calculate it's too risky for me (unless I would be stupid by instinct), if their own parent/guardian font care about their lives why should I? I don't expect other people saving my children. though it's not fair comparison,I am sure you have minute to decide if you save some piece of art work compared to split second decision to save living being

I also worked in past in insurance companies, after dealing with thousands of accidents my advice it's always run over animal, don't try to save it by avoiding it (unless it's boar or something similar comparable to concrete block/tree), try to fight your instinct, saw way too many dead people or in serious injury because they tried to save some stupid dog/fox etc and then crashed into some tree/building etc

There is always a continuum of risk. By your argument, anyone who traveled to go view a historic monument is "just stupid", since there is a non-zero risk that they will die in a car accident along the way.

If entering a burning building (which isn't actually _that_ risky) to salvage one-of-a-kind historic artifacts isn't something you would chose to do, that's fine. Don't label the actions of those that make a different choice "stupid".

The Declaration of Independence isn’t just a historical artifact; it’s an expression of ideas and beliefs that Americans have always fought and died for.

Notre Dame is...was...a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral in a postmodern secular country, desecrated rather than revered by the revolutionaries who built modern France.

There are reports of people gathering around the site and singing. It was more than simply an old catholic building for the population.

I’m not claiming the French people don’t care about Notre Dame. I’m merely observing that the analogy to the Declaration of Independence is significantly flawed. Notre Dame embodied ideas that modern France has repudiated rather than upheld.

History and culture are very important to the French people. Our Lady of Paris is one of the cores of the city.

The country and government being secular does not mean that the people left their Catholic roots behind. Atheist and religious French people share similar values and the past is very important to both.

What's flawed about it? Are you saying firefighters wouldn't run into a burning building to save the original paper?

To flip your point around, they'd save it because it's symbolically important. Same with the art in the Notre Dame.

> What's flawed about it?

I’ve literally been explaining that this whole time. Please try to read and comprehend things before issuing these vacuous replies.

While 39% of the population of France is not religious, 51% of the population is Catholic (2016). Even as an atheist French-Canadian I am hurt by the loss of this monument. I can't even begin to imagine how it feels to religious Parisians.


Edit: Someone on Reddit wrote a very interesting comment about its historical significance:

"Napoleon's coronation is incredibly recent in terms of Notre Dame's age. The amount of time between then and now represents less than 25% of the cathedral's existence.

It was built in 1163, one year after Genghis Khan's birth (or at least our best guess of his birth). Notre Dame predated Marco Polo and the founding of the Ottoman Empire by more than a century. It predates the creation of Islam. At the time of its construction, the best estimates for the global population are ~300 million (less than the current population of the United States). The cathedral was almost 200 years old when the Black Death destroyed a third of the world's population. The USA is currently younger than Notre Dame was when the Forbidden City was constructed in Beijing. It was 3 centuries old when Machu Picchu was built and Leonardo Da Vinci was born. It was over 400 years old when Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was built. It predated the original King James Version of the Bible by 450 years."


Among other relics, a piece of the Crown of Thorns was inside the Cathedral. I don't have a hard time picturing someone braving a blaze to save that.

I appreciate and understand your replies.

Identity is a complex construct, and it needs symbols like that. Even if as a symbol of Church it's no longer relevant, it is still at least a past achievement to be proud of.

And we are talking a building that has survived the French history, the Revolutionaries didn't destroy it, the Communards didn't destroy it (and the destruction in this event were quite extensive http://paris1900.lartnouveau.com/paris00/commune_destruction...). It's a testament of the culture importance of the building and the fact it far exceeds its religious function.

Disclaimer: French and living in Paris (I've not seen the fire however).

It's also literally the center of modern Paris, as there's a point just in front of the building that all distances in the city are measured from.

There’s art and there’s art. And then there’s the symbol of a whole nation.

I imagine even the most reticent would be jumping in on this one.


This isn't nationalism. Its patriotism. There's a really important difference.

And what's the difference? My dictionary, as well as Wiktionary[0], defines nationalism as "1. Patriotism".

[0] https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/nationalism

Nationalism, in current usage, tends to mean jingoism. The difference between that and patriotism could be described as the same as the difference between love and obsession.

Modern meanings of nationalism are synonymous with jingoism. It was once in the definition list on Wiktionary, but was conveniently removed late last year.

That's an oversimplification that borders on the outright incorrect: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/patriotism-vs-...

Nationalism is like rooting for your home team.

Patriotism is like caring for your family.

and if you follow that link, it refers to the 3rd definition of patriotism:

"The desire to compete with other nations; nationalism."

Patriotism is a better fit for this use, as there's the first definition:

"Love of one's country; devotion to the welfare of one's compatriots; passion which inspires one to serve one's country."

Generally, if we're not using literal dictionary definitions, in a political context, nationalism is overpowering patriotism where you want your country to be better than others at all costs. Patriotism is a love for you country and your people.

France does seem to have a deep seated nationalism that I don't understand very well. They care extremely deeply about their cultural works to a degree that does not make sense to me.

"The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does" [0]

Sydney J. Harris

[0] - https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sydney_J._Harris

That seems like a feel-good post-hoc euphemism (but ok, I accept that language evolves).

Either way: how did France (the nation) make any of these artworks? You could argue it was made by anyone in the spectrum ranging from "the artist" to "the humanity". Stopping at France seems arbitrary and a bit... nationalistic.

If any institution "made" them, it's the Catholic Church, not France.

Given that France is "overwhelmingly Roman Catholic" [0], your last statement could be considered interchangeable. Perhaps (and I'm not French, so I don't know) many of the people consider them to be one and the same. Either way, it's a reasonable point that you made.

[0] - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...

Assuming you're American this is the most hilariously ironic comment I've ever seen on HN.

Americans are some of most obnoxiously nationalistic people I've ever encountered. Note: I've lived both in Paris, and also NY and California (14 years in the US). Only in the US do you hear mobs of nationalistic folk chanting "USA USA." I've never been in France or the UK and seen similar things. Think about things like Americans boycotting French Fries and calling them "Freedom Fries" when France decided not to join the illegal and immoral Iraq War.

There's an interesting attitude towards the word "nationalism" in US. As you say, it's probably one of the most enthusiastically civic nationalist nation in the world - indeed, to the point where American sociologists have described it as a "civic religion" at times. But the word "nationalism" itself is almost exclusively interpreted as "ethnic nationalism", and has an unambiguously negative vibe. So people who practice civic nationalism describe themselves as "patriots" instead.

We actually had elected officials chanting “USA! USA!” at the last State of the Union Address.

Very fine people on all sides of course.

My favorite part of the "USA! USA!" chant is how seriously non-Americans are about it. Every time I've started or participated in a "USA! USA!" chant it was only about 15% nationalism and 85% a joke. Part of its enchanting humor is how that seems lost on everybody else.

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

So part of why it’s “funny” is that it’s offensive to most people who don’t find it funny?

I must admit, you’re the first person I’ve ever heard refer to a USA chant as enchanting.

Sorry, you're writing this complaint about other people's irrational nationalism from the United States?

I can imagine that too. I can also imagine the cathedral being so iconic that a sense of national pride might take over to try to salvage anything possible.


You've been posting a whole lot of unsubstantive comments recently. Could you please review the guidelines and stop? We ban accounts that won't post civilly and thoughtfully.


OK, sorry!

I go back and forth between HN and Reddit, I guess I'm used to Reddit, will pay more attention.

>>I wonder how the firefighters feel about risking their lives for art

This type of art is irreplaceable and art cannot walk away from the fire. At least we know it has zero chance of doing so, unless someone shows up

One would think that they had a plan in place and some key pieces already scheduled to be saved in case of a fire. They probably stopped that operation once the fire spread to the totality of the structure. For a while, it was only in the roof since it started from the attic.

They had actually taken out many statues by crane just yesterday to protect from the ongoing restoration.

I wouldn't think that any individual firefighters are being commanded to do it against their will. It's not the same as going into a burning building to save lives.

Paris firefighters are part of the French Army [1], so they are used to being commanded.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Fire_Brigade

Although structured that way, they recruit directly from the public, not from the ranks of the existing army. Dunno if you can transfer.

If they get 8 months of training before employment, I kinda hope they spend more time on the theory and practice of firefighting than being a soldier.

To risk their lives to save things, though? That's what's at issue here.

I can easily imagine there are plenty of people who would risk it willingly.

Including anyone who signs up to be a firefighter...

There’s no one in the building other than the firefighters so even if this were a choice there wouldn’t be any live to save.

> you're looking at tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute

That's only like six fire engines, looking up the stats. (But I don't know anything about fire fighting.)

Those are very specialized vehicles you're looking up. A typical pump on a fire engine will move 1.5-2k GPM.

Even if you had that pumping capacity on site, there's no way the municipal water supply could deliver that much water.

It's directly beside a river.

It's unlikely an urban fire department is set up for any significant amount of drafting (pulling water from surface sources), if it's something they can do at all.

You're absolutely right though, if you want big water, that's the way to get it. It's just that "big water" doesn't even begin to approach the scale of the water that would be necessary to directly fight this fire.

It's unlikely an urban fire department is set up for any significant amount of drafting (pulling water from surface sources), if it's something they can do at all.

SFFD trucks have that capability, and it was used in the 1989 earthquake. It's intended for pulling water from the underground cisterns marked by a big ring of bricks in SF intersections.

Terrible for the equipment to run salt water, but they had to.

I thought SFFD was some brand used by the French, but of course it's just USA-centric naming. (Took me forever to understand BART and I still have to look up name-based time zones like MST, which, no, thanks Wikipedia, is not Malaysia Standard Time at +8 but Mountain time at -7.)

For anyone else confused: this earthquake was in San Francisco and this is about their Fire Department. It doesn't mean that French fire trucks have that capability 30 years later.

It's unlikely an urban fire department is set up for any significant amount of drafting (pulling water from surface sources), if it's something they can do at all.

My understanding, which is probably quite out of date, is that it's mostly harbor firefighting boats which had this ability.

A coworker of mine points out that many of the San Francisco manholes are actually covers for cisterns of water, which exist primarily for fighting fires after an earthquake possibly takes out the water mains and starts many fires. I should hope that San Francisco fire trucks can draft water to use these.

Former (volunteer) firefighter here:

Park the truck next to the cistern. Connect a length of hose to the pump supply, drop the hose into the cistern. The pump will move water until it loses suction pressure.

Not just any hose though, you need rigid walled hose. Regular fire hose would just collapse flat under suction.


Is the hose to be dropped into the cistern different from the other hoses? I would expect it to be reinforced, such that it wouldn't collapse from air pressure. Hoses downstream from a high pressure pump wouldn't need such reinforcement. However, it's different upstream from such pumps.

You can recognize the cisterns because there are big (like 20 ft in diameter) brick circles inlaid into the street in SF to mark the cisterns. Neat once you know what to look for

> It's unlikely an urban fire department is set up for any significant amount of drafting (pulling water from surface sources), if it's something they can do at all.

London Fire Brigade for example has nine special pumps that can draw 2000 gallons a minute each from river or lake supplies. So that's 18,000 gallons a minute just from them.

And that's a smaller fire brigade than Paris.

Yeah, but that's not "a significant amount". It's certainly less than half of what you would need to fight this fire head on. That's also assuming all those engines are in-service, staffed, and can get there and get set up within a reasonable amount of time.

I would expect the fire department of a large city with navigable waterways to have fireboats, though, which by their very nature draft water. Even if the boat's own nozzles don't reach. they can generally be used as pumps for hoses on shore.

The devil is in the details. A "short" distance on a "small" island might well amount to a huge amount of hose. Then there's the logistics of getting all of that in place and hooked up. The trucks on site would need to pump to increase the pressure to usable levels, and all of that would have to be compatible. Getting enough trucks onsite might be a logistical challenge just in itself.

like, really short:

The real world is complex. It's not all like software or taking multiple choice exams. Again the devil is in the details. Pay really close attention to the map legend. It looks like there's nearly 200 feet of distance from the closest water shown on that map and the nearest side of the cathedral. I really doubt that all fire trucks carry 200 feet of hard suction hose, or have pumps designed to draft through 200 feet of hard hose.

"The NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus – Requires pumpers to carry: 15 feet of large soft sleeve hose or 20 feet of hard suction hose"


You would never try to draft through 200 feet of hard suction. In fact, I'm relatively sure it would be impossible, since no matter how well you tighten the connections, there's pretty much always going to be a minute amount of vacuum loss at each coupling. In practice, few fire departments ever draft though more than 20 feet (2 sections) of hard suction, and even then it can be a challenge getting the pump primed, depending on any elevation difference between the water surface and the engine location, etc.

In real life, if you were going to draft in an environment like this, (leaving aside any reference to fire boats for a moment), you'd drive an engine to within 20' or so of the water, have it draft, and then relay water to the fire scene using (usually) 5" LDH. But sometimes even getting an engine to within 20' of the water can be a challenge, based on the geography and circumstances.

If the body of water you're drafting from is (strongly) subject to tides, that adds another complicating factor as your water source is now moving around, which could require constant re-positioning of the apparatus.

Lay people always see fires near large bodies of water and think "Why is water supply a problem, they're surrounded by water?!?" But it's often more complicated than that.

Source: was a firefighter and firefighting instructor for about a decade in a former life.

Also, even if you had a pump by the river, hand-jacking that length of LDH requires a huge amount of physical effort, and would tie up a lot of manpower during a critical phase of the operation.

I don't have to pay close attention to the map. I've been there. It is absolutely close enough to the river to have hoses running directly from it. The fact that they didn't use it suggests it probably wasn't such a good idea, we are only dudes writing on the internet, they are firefighters with experience doing their job.

I wasn't able to find any hard sources, but I don't see any evidence that the Paris Fire Brigade has any boats with any significant pumping capacity. Most of their boats seem to be rescue/dive focused, with small master stream deck guns.

The BBC said they were pulling water directly from the river, fyi.

Yeah, I've seen at least two draft lines running. But at best that's going to be 3-4k GPM. Enough for a couple of those big water streams. You'd need >10x that to fight a fire like this head on (which they clearly didn't have, since they immediately went to salvage and exposure protection measures)

The Seine is not directly beside Notre Dame. It’s a steep drop and 200-300ft away depending on angles. A standard fire hose is 50ft. A supply/relay hose is typically 100ft. They can’t just hook up a few hoses, dunk them in the Seine, and then instantly put the fire out.

There were notable logistical issues to get enough firefighters on-site given it’s an island, and there were a ton of people around when the fire broke out. They wound up having 400 firefighters on-site until midnight to get it under control and save the structure. I’m pretty confident they did all they could, and HN’s armchair firefighters aren’t likely to have done any better.

If only there was a river nearby...

The equipment used to pull from a hydrant is substantially different to the equipment used to draft (suction) surface water. Consider, for instance, that hydrants are under pressure.

The big difference is that you need rigid tubing, colloquially known as "hard suction" hose to draft from a static source. Typically soft-walled hose would collapse if you applied suction to it. At least in the US, most engines carry hard suction tubing, but I believe some urban engines may forgo it, opting to use that space for something they use more often. And even if they do have it, the engineers may not have a lot of experience setting up a drafting operation.

Would only work until the engine is empty, then you have to hold up using the local hydrants (which will likely not be able to supply six fire engines going full throttle)

Here’s a very close video showing water (pumped from the Seine) being sprayed on the roof.


That stream is protecting the towers at the front of the structure. It's not aimed at the body of the fire.

A twitter thread with technical information (in French, would someone be able to translate?) with why it's not happening: https://twitter.com/FranckMee/status/1117862376047382528

Rough translation by hand:

First, it's the temperature. A fire is extinguished in the first minutes; after a few hours, you can do nothing but contain it. It's the problem with roof fires: they burn for a long time without being seen, and are therefore powerful when visible.

The aerial tankers are at Nimes. Helicoptors are a little closer, but more in the south. If you use one or the other, it would take several hours.. After the detection of the fire, by which time it has grown in power.

Specific complication today: the discovery was at the end of the afternoon. The planes can't operate in night (experimentation is ongouging), especially in an environment as complex as Paris. Even if we send them, they couldn't intervene until tomorrow.

Second point: access. A roof, it's waterproof. An aerial tanker would douse the tiles or copper cover, but not a drop would arrive on the file except at the stage where the roof has already began to fall. Then, the plane could douse the flames. But it's much, much too late: by the time the first tiles fell, the carpentry would already be gravely weak. In fact, these fires only become visible when the damage is already profound.

Sending the aerial tankers over a building, that's already done. But for exterior fires. Under a roof, that isn't useful until the roof has already fallen. That's why these planes don't service this kind of fire. In fact, at the moment where one can still save the roof, these fires are only accessible by the interior.

That's the difficulty with the work of firefighting. If they could, they would love to intervene without plunging into the flames... But while it burns under a roof, it's necessary to go find the fire.

Correction after several reactions: when I speak of aircraft without precision, I think especially of helicopters. Canadair is clearly excluded by effect of its backwash, which can provoke a collapse of the carpentry, already severely weakened.

Thank you for this.

Sécurité Civile, the guys who operate water bombing aircraft, have tweeted a couple of times that the dynamic pressure of water would present too much of a threat to the structure. https://twitter.com/SecCivileFrance/status/11178749242683760...

Short of a very precise aerial tanker mission (and how long would it take to spin that up or get lucky with an aircraft in training nearby, fill up and then vector it), no way to put it out. It might've been feasible as there are very few tall buildings or structures in Paris and it's in the middle of the river with nothing much on either side.

People also should know that simultaneous fires on multiple floors of multi-story buildings typically aren't possible to fight either, reducing possible efforts to containment and damage mitigation.

I don't get all the hype about tankers... A tanker load would do significant structural damage to the building, would be a huge risk in city with a lot of tall structures, would be totally ineffective on the bulk of the fire (that's below the roof), and would require pulling out all the firefighters on the scene, significantly reducing the overall firefighting capacity.

This is basically what the chief of the Paris fire brigade told the news (dumping a load of water on the building would finish destroying it). Add to that the fact that the closest Canadairs are 600 miles away and designed to draw water from the sea.

It seems like the weight of amount of water/retardant to effectively extinguish a fully-involved fire would be a problem AND simultaneously smothering the fire underneath AND reducing core coal temperatures below ignition point would need to happen. It's a thought towards a possible solution to a ruinous class of fires, but there appears to be a need for a gentle and widely-deployed technology to rescue historic structures in the midst of fire events.

1. Cool an outer structure rapidly with lightweight/gently-applied, inert, high specific heat material from above.

2. Thixotropic gently-applied, inert, high specific heat material inner structure (possibly same as 1.).

CNN's now reporting that water cannons are being aimed at the central fire.

From the limited shots I've seen, it all looks like exposure protection (trying to slow the spread)

> For those asking about why there isn't visible water being sprayed on the fire... There's no point. Any firefighting efforts are focused on preventing the spread of the fire to other structures (potentially other parts of the same structure)

> As a rule of thumb, the water flow necessary to extinguish a burning structure is the volume of the structure (in feet) divided by 100. The resulting number is (in rough numbers) the amount of water you need, in gallons per minute. For a fire this size, you're looking at tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute. It's just not possible.

I wonder if the fire could be covered with a huge tarpaulin or alike to try to suppress it.

The thermal load of the hot wood would burn it even if it extinguished the visible flames unless you could cut off all oxygen flow.

Is "thermal load" in this sentence an elaborate term for "heat", or is there more nuance that I'm missing?

You can have a tiny amount of material be very hot, but you could cool it with a small amount of water. Its thermal load is low.

If you have a large amount of material be moderately hot, you'd need a lot of water to cool it. The thermal load is high.

In these sentences, you're using "hot" and "cool" to refer to temperature, and using "thermal load" to describe what physicists and engineers unambiguously call "heat," as in the amount of thermal energy held within a specific object of a certain mass, heat capacity, and temperature. In my admittedly limited experience with thermodynamics (currently in grad school for physics), "thermal load" seems to describe the exact same thing as heat, except it's less common. In fact, it initially confused me because of the concept of "thermal mass," which refers to the total heat capacity of a given object = mass * (heat capacity per unit mass).

Sounds like a great way to make the world's biggest backdraft...

Any thoughts on why there isn't more evident action from building fire suppression systems? At least in smaller systems, I've seen sprinklers that work externally to the building to protect tall wooden spires, etc.

If there was fire suppression in the building, it likely didn't cover the construction scaffolding, and once that got burning, it was certainly hot enough to overwhelm any sprinklers.

There are four major phases in the life of a fire, incipient, growth, fully developed, and decay. Sprinklers are designed to keep a fire from progressing from incipient to growth. Once it makes that transition, the battle is lost.

Thank you.

I suppose that if it were possible, it would be very heavy, and could break the very structures it tried to preserve.

I wonder if injecting large amounts of CO2 or N2 inside the structure would be feasible.

Water-soluble foam, which is much lighter weight and easier to produce in large volumes, is also known to be used to contain large fires, especially of oil / fuel.

I'm watching it on CBS News right now and there is in fact lots of visible water being sprayed on the fire.

Yeah, now that the fire is progressing into the "decay" phase (as it has burned through most of its fuel) there is less risk of spread to other exposures, so it makes sense to start shifting fire streams towards areas of active fire.

Based on some of the other commentators, tens of thousands of gallons per minute sounds doable. One mentioned a single truck can do two. Get ten or more of those trucks (which I assume Paris has) and that seems like a decent amount of water.

By "tens of thousands" I meant more on the order of 60k+.

Getting 10 engines there wouldn't be the issue. Supplying them with water would be. Given that it's an island, they would be limited to the capacity of the water main serving the island.


A reasonable person might think that it did occur to emergency fire services to respond quickly, particularly in a nation and city with a great history in the field.
cma 7 days ago [flagged]

A reasonable person might also think that the man put in charge of the largest nuclear stockpile in the world, that could literally end the world, would have already considered that and knew air tankers were the most viable option, so long as they acted fast after his communication.

You're trolling here whether you intend to or not. Please try to comment more substantively.


Personally I don't see how anyone could possibly come to any other conclusion...

A reasonable person would not think that.

“Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are — nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right, who would have thought? — but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”

-Donald J Trump

According to a response paraphrased from Le Monde, the problem is that the water pressure by an aerial tanker could well destroy what is trying to be saved.


Wait, you're actually serious? This is the man who tweeted 'covfefe' you're talking about...

My Poe's Law sense is tingling, but I honestly can't tell these days.

I think it’s pretty clear that no one other than Trump vets his Twitter account.

Flying water tankers are a terrible idea in urban environments.

Oh don't mind that, the president is just yelling at the TV again.

The person was quoting Trump. He tweeted that this morning.


If you start using tankers, you have to evacuate everyone from the area (in a larger area than their current evacuation cordon). It would mean all other on-site firefighting operations would have to stop.

Using aerial tankers would be unsafe (flying planes are very low altitudes through a city), and would result in a net reduction in firefighting efforts on scene.

Fire retardant might work, but is likely not readily on hand in an urban environment (and is really meant to prevent spread of fire, not to put a fire out).

Dumping actual water would be a bad idea both for the people and the structure, simply because dumping heavy things from high places is generally dangerous.

Yes. Potentially far, far worse. And people have absolutely died from using fire retardant delivered from air tankers.

These planes have to fly extremely close to the ground to deliver their payload (which is spread over an area far too large to be effective in this case anyway btw) and too often the plane can lose control, whether from sudden unweighting or the turbulence from the fire and crash. This can kill everyone on board and usually starts a new fire to boot.

Tankers are great at dropping water and fire retardant on trees, brush, and small structures.

Dropping tons of water on Notre Dame's roof would likely just expedite the collapse.

Donald trump just picks an idea that will sound like "common sense" to a lot of people. It makes sense in a simplistic kind of way, but is fundamentally flawed. But people get to feel angry that their ideas are not being taken seriously. And that the world is being ruined by stupid liberals who won't do the obvious thing. As if a fire chief in Paris has a duty to try out bad ideas just to protect the feelings of a random Twitter handle and his followers.

I predict that, before we see the end of this decade, Poe's Law will have been renamed in honor of its most prodigious patron.

Your irony might have been a little too subtle.

Non-native speaker here. Is there even something called that? (Yes I know it is a quote)

Airtankers, waterbombers, and air attack are all common terms used to refer to aerial firefighting. I can't imagine this is something unique to North America but both the United States and Canada employ planes and helicopters to drop water and fire retardants on forest fires in remote areas where conventional firefighting equipment cannot reach.

We also have a form of firefighter called a Smoke Jumper that's the equivalent of a Paratrooper for fighting fires. They're deployed in these remote areas to clear out areas ahead of fires to constrict or redirect fires.


Widely used in Canadian firefighting, mainly forest fires. These fires are huge, covering 1,351,314 hectares in BC alone in 2018[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_British_Columbia_wildfire...

If you want to go really big, here's a 747 one.


They are generally called air tankers and are typically used on forest fires and brush fires.


I quote, our President's tweet:

""Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!"" & another:

"".@FrankLuntz is a low class slob who came to my office looking for consulting work and I had zero interest. Now he picks anti-Trump panels!"" - who do you think vetted these? Which professionals?

The obvious and sad truth is; Trump watches TV, and randomly reacts real time on twitter with his own words. You can figure out what he is working (and NOT working on) by simply looking at what TV shows, channels, and people-on-TV he refers to as he continues to tweet throughout the day.

For those missing the context, this is a direct quote from Trump's Twitter account.

Didn't know that, didn't need to know that. Was happy not to know that. Now I know that and am sad.

Especially at times like these... he's such an embarrassment _sigh_

Why not "all the time"?

Because sometimes we get some sleep and forget about the nightmare.

a couple at Charles de Gaulle on standby could have been there in minutes

Today, we are all French. As a student of European History, I want to curl up and cry. I proposed to my beautiful wife of 11 years beneath the spire of Notre Dame. We fell in love walking along the bouquinistes. There is a terrible empty feeling in my heart this afternoon. It is like losing a part of myself this day.

Yes, I know the Notre Dame will be built again. But that might not happen till after I am long gone.

You have a great story (albeit with a touch of sadness).

I would think that this type of event would bring the French together in a way like few other events could. I'd expect Gilets Jaunes movement to subside quickly.

Yes, today we are all French - and expect that we all want to see Our Lady rebuilt. Faster, better, stronger, and much more fire-retardant than in the past.

The Windsor Castle fire of 1992 was refurbished in 5 years, [0] and although a national treasure, it was not at the level of the Notre Dame. But it was rebuilt, and was even completed ahead of schedule.

The cost doesn't matter - it will probably be well over a billion. But you will see concerts, TV specials, and all sorts of fund raisers to rebuild her.

And in this you will see the best thing of all - the French (and even people like me who are only French on occasions like this) showing our love to rebuild her.

This is the message you should hold in your heart today - one of love and empathy, and dare I say, the grace of God that she was intended to foster.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Windsor_Castle_fire

And the pledges have already started! The owners of LVMH have pledged 200 million euro. And they weren’t even the first! [0]

[0] - https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-france-notredame-arnault/b...

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding, but it looks like 5 years is now the (aggressive) goal for rebuilding...


>I'd expect Gilets Jaunes movement to subside quickly. I don't see why you would think that, losing such a beautiful an iconic cathedral is surely sad, it however doesn't change anything to the daily struggle of many French citizens everywhere in the country. The GJ movement is already slowing down anyway.

>Yes, I know the Notre Dame will be built again. But that might not happen till after I am long gone.

The cathedral is made of stone. It will survive the fire and won't need to be rebuilt. "Just" a new roof will be needed and remediation for the fire. Just in quotes because clearly that's still a massive undertaking which will take years and a whole lot of dollars.

The spire is clearly a great loss. As are the statues that were on the roof. Hopefully the stained glass makes it out ok, but that's probably optimistic. There's also the artifacts and art work in the interior that will be damaged. But the iconic bell towers remain. The statues on the facade are likely undamaged. The interior nave and apse will survive. After restoration it will still be essentially the same even if we lose some irreplaceable artifacts.

The statues on the roof had been taken off for the restoration works.

The cause of this fire is unclear, but other churches in France have been targets of arson and vandalism:


> Today, we are all French.


The amount of tweets and the variety of languages is actually pretty impressive. https://daniel.perez.sh/misc/notre-dame/

Sending good vibes your way.

The spire which collapsed was a reconstruction built during the restoration in the mid-19th Century.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, Restored by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Jean Baptiste Lassus -- http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/vld/3.html

"The Commission on Historical Monuments approved most of Viollet-le-Duc's plans, but rejected his proposal to remove the choir built under Louis XIV. Viollet-le-Duc himself turned down a proposal to add two new spires atop the towers, arguing that such a monument "would be remarkable but would not be Notre Dame de Paris". Instead, he proposed to rebuild the original medieval spire and bell tower over the transept, which had been removed in 1786 because it was unstable in the wind."


Many of these wooden structures are nearly 1,000 years old. The spire itself only dates from the 19th century.

Does wood really last that long? I know ancient Japanese wooden temples are basically rebuilt every 30 years or so, a constant renewal akin to the Ship of Theseus. Are European wooden structures similarly renewed?

Here's a 1200-yr old wooden church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensted_Church

Protected from fungus (rot) and insects, wood can last indefinitely. How to achieve that, of course, varies widely.

Wood, if properly taken care of and kept dry, will last basically forever. I’d imagine they do that in Japan because of humidity or so.

They do it in Japan because they choose to. Rebuilding it every generation is a religious ritual tied closely to Shintoism. The buildings certainly aren't rotting out completely over that short timeframe!

Many Americans live in wooden houses that are much older than that. The biggest problem tends to be termites.

There are still some 12th century wooden churches in Norway that still have most of the original wood: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stave_church#Old_stave_churche...

Only one temple in Japan is continuously rebuilt. Many others are several centuries old.

is that accurate? https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-47942176 suggests the spire dates back to 12th century whereas Wikipedia suggests, to your point, that it was recreated in the 19th century: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre-Dame_de_Paris#Towers_and...

The old spire was taken down after the Revolution because it was in bad state and in danger of falling over the structure. A new one was built in the big mid-19th restoration of Viollet-le-Duc. Source, the chief architect of the current restoration works in this very interesting video tour (in French): https://www.facebook.com/lemonde.fr/videos/10155299594692590...

All I can say is "fuck...."

I'm truly heartbroken

I'm shocked and that's rare in these days of chaos. The powerlessness hurts

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