What Was Lost Today

ND-West Rose Window

The tragic fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris today destroyed magnificent treasures of Christianity. Begun in the 12th century and completed in the 13th, Notre Dame predates the Protestant Reformation and thus belongs to all Christians. I seek in this post to give you a poor representation of the beauty of Notre Dame. Please excuse the very poor images here–they are purchased slides from my trip to Paris in 1980. Now much faded and distorted, they were never very good.

As you no doubt learned in an art history course at some point, the structure of Notre Dame made a striking advance in architecture at the time. Early Christian cathedrals were modified from Roman style basilicas, with circular arches. A modern example of this style is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. This style of construction leads to a more ponderous feel. What designers of Notre Dame wanted to achieve was a much more soaring effect, with lots of windows and light. This demanded a new architectural design, the gothic arch. With the greater strength the gothic arch provided they could raise the ceiling, insert side windows, and support massive rose windows. Those who have visited Notre Dame never fail to be impressed by these colorful masterpieces. To support the walls of the cathedral architects required the use of flying buttresses, impressive in their own right.

UPDATE: As of this morning, April 16, reports are that the structure is not deemed secure, but the organ and west rose window are OK.

The images in this gallery give you some slight hint of this magnificent edifice, meant both to inspire and to instruct.

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