Nôtre Dame

A sad ruin – Okehampton Castle

Old ruins, like those shown in these pictures of Okehampton Castle, are appealing. It is wonderful to walk about them and imagine what the places would have been like in their heyday. Yet no one who loves history can help but be appalled at the sight of an international monument like the cathedral of Paris going up in flames yesterday.

I have never been to the cathedral, sadly. When I have been able to afford foreign trips, Paris has been more of a staging post en route, rather than a destination. The price of hotels and restaurants were enough to deter someone living on an author’s salary. Yet I had always wanted to visit, to see the site of the Louvre castle, the Bastille, and of course the cathedral of Nôtre Dame.

It is hard to conceive of the damage that must have been done to the building. The spire, the roof, and so many of the fabulous paintings, carvings and windows have been lost for ever. This morning we are told that the basic structure remains, but that is not as good as it may at first sound. The intense heat of a fire such as yesterday’s will do irreparable damage even to stone walls. Some stones will fail as a result of their experience, the mortar will crumble, and the water that has now seeped into the foundations will be causing still more problems.

Cathedrals throughout the centuries have suffered. Many, while attempting to build spires of ever more impressive height, suffered from builders and masons who had, shall we say, more impressive artistic than engineering skills. Many are the spires that collapsed due to insufficient foundations, incompetent construction, or poor choice of materials. Others have fallen prey to the hideous destructive power of new weapons, such as Coventry and Königsberg, Monte Cassino and Cologne. More damage is done

Already millions have been promised to Paris to rebuild Nôtre Dame. The sad truth is that many of the valuable, irreplaceable treasures that were held inside have been lost forever. However it is possible, hopefully, that they will all live on, if only as photographs held here on the internet or elsewhere.

For me, as a lover of history, I feel dreadfully sad to think that I will never now see the cathedral in its majestic glory.

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