The Minster to aid Notre-Dame


The Minster was badly damaged in a fire caused by a lightning strike in 1984.

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Image by Image: Keith Laverack

By Eloise McMinn Mitchell

In the wake of the fire at Notre-Dame in Paris, the question of rebuilding has become a prominent one. What students at the University of York may not be aware of is that our own York Minster may be important in understanding Notre-Dame’s repairs because the Minster was badly damaged in a fire caused by a lightning strike in 1984.
The Master Mason, John David, in charge of the repairs at York Minster, is relatively optimistic about the work that will be going ahead at Notre-Dame. Admittedly, the repairs look as if they will not run short of funds in the near future, with £650 million raised within 10 days of the fire on 15 April, while the Minster was repaired at a cost of £2.25 million.
John David was called upon to work at York Minster after the fire of 1984. A lightning strike in the early morning of 9 July took hold in the roof, allowing the fire to remain undetected for a considerable amount of time. Once alarms sounded, there was a rush to remove artefacts from within the church while 114 firefighters tackled the blaze; when they arrived, a third of the roof was already ablaze and collapsing in on itself. In order to prevent it from spreading, they targeted burnt timbers, bringing down as much of the roof as they could. In doing so, the fire was prevented from spreading further.
The famous Rose Window was held in place only by lead that had recently been refurbished but had broken in 40 000 places and was thought to have been exposed to temperatures as h i g h as 450 degrees celsius in the fire.
David has been quoted discussing the task facing the teams restoring Notre-Dame. When York Minster was restored, it was done so with the aim of maintaining the original style, which is likely to be the same approach taken by those in charge of restoring Paris’ iconic cathedral.
David’s general tone was hopeful as he was quoted by the BBC, saying that in the case of the Minster: “There was no fear about putting it back and I imagine that’s the same in this case… It’s quite achievable to see it [restored] and it’s an opportunity to show that this work can still be done.”
He said initial rebuilding steps include removing the scaffolding currently on Notre-Dame, which was undergoing restorative work before the fire. York’s Dr Kate Giles was quoted on the restorative process and explained that debris cleared from within the building will be inspected to determine what can be restored and reused and what must be replaced. Throughout all of this, workers will have to be careful of any stones or structures that became unstable after the fire and could fall onto people working below.
However, Notre-Dame may not be rebuilt exactly the way it was before. Submissions of designs for replacement include a glasshouse roof alternative. Whatever the case, with an expert like John David with real experience of renovating a similar cathedral, there is hope that the famous Parisian monument will be restored to glory – be it former or with a modern twist.