On April 15, 2019, just before 6:20 p.m. local time, the world was startled to hear that the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was burning. I have a BBC news alert on my phone, so I found out right away. What an awful feeling—to know, as the firefighters struggled, that la forêt (the frame) was burning, and not to know if they would be able to put the fire out.
Notre-Dame is a centuries-old structure and an amazing feat of architectural engineering. Begun in 1163, it was built on the ruins of two other churches (and a temple to Jupiter) and took almost two hundred years to complete. Notre-Dame shines as an example of early Gothic structure with its massive flying buttresses that offset the weight of the tall walls. The rose windows were also a newer architectural feature, and only possible in the thinner walls of the Gothic style, as opposed to the thicker defensive walls of the earlier Romanesque churches. Notre-Dame’s three great rose windows are world famous for their size, beauty, and age.