Notre Dame

Before the Fire

Notre Dame Cathedral before the Fire

See the 13th Century Rose Windows, North Tower Bell, Great Pipe Organ, Statues, Art

A potentially catastrophic fire ripped through Notre Dame Cathedral on the evening of April 15, threating the renowned French Gothic masterpiece from the Middle Ages that has stood as the symbolic heart of Paris ever since its construction began in 1163 on Île de la Cité, a tiny island in the Seine River settled by a Celtic tribe called the Parisii about 2,300 years ago.

At one point during the evening, as seemingly unquenchable orange flames devoured the vaulted roof and destroyed a delicate lead-covered spire containing religious relics, the entire structure appeared in danger of collapsing into a pile of rubble and ash. 

But by the end of the night, hope emerged:  Notre Dame's stone framework including its two iconic bell towers and its ethereal flying buttresses continue to stand. 

Irreplaceable culture treasures including the cathedral's three magnificent Medieval stained glass rose windows, its renowned organ and bells, and the statues and golden cross at the main altar escaped destruction. 

Fire brigrade members successfully executed a disaster response plan and rescued the most important paintings and sculptures along with precious religious relics including the Crown of Thorns.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised the cathedral will be restored, and donations to the renovation fund are pouring in. 

Restoration will take years, but part of what makes Notre Dame special are the layers of repairs, restorations, and improvements added throughout the centuries of its existence.  This new 21st century layer will no doubt make it even stronger and more resilient to ensure its existence through the coming years.

 In the meantime, enjoy our photos of Notre Dame before the fire.

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Two almost-twin bell towers and west rose window at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral; at the side you can see the south rose window and at the center is the spire destroyed by the fire

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but Notre Dame and its irreplaceable cultural treasures - - have faced partial or complete destruction in the past from rioting Huguenots, "Cult of Reason" appropriation during the French Revolution, bombs during both World Wars, Adolf Hitler's direct order to burn down the cathedral, and more recently, acid rain.

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Front entrances on Notre Dame's west side

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Sculptures of saints on the west side include Saint Denis holding his severed head

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Notre Dame's Tower Bells

Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
The "Marie" bell in the Cathedral's North Tower

Along with Notre Dame's magnificent 8,000 pipe CC organ, Gregorian chants, and choral music, bells ringing for masses, funerals, state occasions, and other special moments give voice to the Cathedral. 

Bells have been ringing here since the late 1100s, more than half a century before construction completed. By the mid 1700s, the Cathedral housed 20 exquisite bells, all tuned to be in harmony with one another.

But after idealism gave way to terror during the French Revolution, zealots melted down all but one: the "great bell" or bourdon known as Emmanuel, saved only by Napoleon's orders and still in place in the the South Tower.  Although later replacements made from inferior metal couldn't hold a tune, that's what Parisians heard ringing from the Cathedral's towers until recently.   

To commemorate the Cathedral's 850th anniversary, exact copies were made of eight original bells including Marie in the above photo and installed in the North Tower. A new bourdon was cast and placed in the South Tower next to Emmanuel

Before the fire, you could once again hear Notre Dame's bells ringing the same melodic tones heard by Parisians before the Revolution.

Emmanuel appears to have survived the fire.  Marie and the others?  To be determined.

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Rose window on Notre Dame's north side

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Pietà sculpture on the alter in front of the cross

One of the cathedral's most famous sculptures, Pietà by Nicolas Coustou, graces the main altar. 

The altar sustained serious damage from burning timbers falling from the roof but Pietà and the golden cross escaped relatively unharmed.

 

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Lighted Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame in December

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

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Fun Ways to See Notre Dame

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