Gregory Bryda, Assistant Professor of Western Medieval Art and Architecture
May 09, 2019
Fortunately, the storied north and south rose windows, whose giant, iconic radial frames still contain 13th-century stained glass, were spared from the fire. This is because the vast majority of damage was confined to the timber roof of the cathedral’s upper attic.
The main vessel of the cathedral, which is what the spectator sees from the ground within the building, is essentially a chamber sealed in stone, from the floor, up the piers, through the frames of the windows, all the way to the interlacing, webbed arches of the cathedral's vaulting. Although the fire and the collapse of the spire punctured through parts of the stone ceiling, most of it held, protecting many of the treasures contained therein, like the medieval stained glass.
It is important to note that while much of the building remains standing, the porous stone is not impervious to extreme temperatures, or to the thousands of gallons of water that, poured onto the roof, have seeped into the crypt and basement.
Notre-Dame, like any building, is impermanent and made of lowly, earthly materials. It has succumbed to its fair share of damage (neglect and vandalism) since its completion in the 14th century. The French people will rebuild it once more, in a style of their own choosing, and it will continue to capture our minds and hearts for another nine centuries.