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Notre Dame Cathedral: 5 things to know

France doesn't have trees big enough to provide wood beams of the size of those used for the roof centuries ago.

An aerial view of Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed

An aerial view of Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on Monday in Paris, in an image taken from a television screen. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images

As global attention focused on Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral after the ruinous fire Monday, here are some things to know about this Catholic and cultural landmark that dates to the 12th century:

• The relic said to be the Crown of Thorns, or Crown of Christ, was saved. That and other pieces were quickly taken to a “secret location” after the fire, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said.

Catholics believe the crown was pressed onto Jesus’ head during the crucifixion. King Louis IX brought it to Paris in the 13th century.

"The works of art, the most precious treasures, were secured last night," French Culture Minister Franck Riester said.

• France doesn't have trees big enough anymore to provide wood beams the same size as the oak ones used for the roof centuries ago. French cultural heritage expert Bertrand de Feydeau told France Info radio that "we don't, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century."

An expert on medieval art and architecture told The Associated Press there probably aren’t big enough trees anywhere in Europe today.

• France itself, not the Catholic Church, owns the cathedral. President Emmanuel Macron said he wants to rebuild it within five years. "We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral even more beautifully," he said.

The state separated from the church in 1905, Oxford University Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch told "BBC Newshour," and "the state took over the greatest buildings in Paris, which were the churches. And they're therefore owned by the state. And the church has a slightly anomalous place within its own buildings, and that’s been part of the problem," said MacCulloch, whose work is on the history of Christianity. "The brute fact is that Notre Dame has not been in a good state, and that's one of the reasons there was a great restoration program already."

• Notre Dame's two towers on the front of the cathedral, which withstood the fire, were finished around 1245 — while the spire that collapsed in flames Monday was built only in the 19th century.

• The cathedral has seen and survived much in its eight and a half centuries — including when revolutionaries took it over and made it a "Temple of Reason." It "suffered terribly in the French Revolution," MacCulloch said.

With The Associated Press

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