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Local architecture professor gives insight into Notre Dame Cathedral fire

NOW: Local architecture professor gives insight into Notre Dame Cathedral fire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The 850 year- old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned for several hours earlier this week.

John Stamper, the Associate Dean and Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, was in class when the devastating fire unfolded. 

Stamper says the Notre Dame Cathedral is the most important symbol in France, and its history is essential to the European nation’s history. 

He says all of his students gathered around computers, watching the fire blaze through one of the most important monuments of Gothic style architecture. 

Stamper said his two biggest concerns while watching the fire unfold were the rose windows and stone vaults.

“It has some of the most magnificent rose windows of any cathedral in the world,” he said. “The great stone vaults that you see when you stand in the nave and look up.”

Stamper said it was clear that the roof structure above the vaults was being completely destroyed by the fire. 

The round, stained glass windows were saved; but early photos from inside appear to show some of the vaults collapsed. 

“The master Masons that worked in the 12th and 13th centuries, they have a particular skill to create the ribs and the webbed vaulting. That skill is very rare today.”

But still, Stamper believes the vaults can be replaced. 

The professor is sure there are precious objects that will be lost. For instance, Stamper explained that wooden choir stalls and side alters are most likely damaged by water and falling debris. 

“But, I think they managed to remove most of the important relics, the Christian relics. The Crown of Thorns as well, for instance, as many of the statues,” he said.  "They’ll certainly reconstruct the spire, and the roof, the form of the roof will be the same.”

And as for French President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to rebuild the cathedral, Stamper believes it will happen.

“It’ll take time. It could take a decade to rebuild it back to its original condition. But, I’m sure they can do that.”

Donations for the restoration of the cathedral are approaching $1 billion.

The University of Notre Dame is donating $100,000 toward the renovation.

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