Notre-Dame Fire Reveals Secrets of the Church’s Construction

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There is a positive byproduct of the devastator fire 2019 who devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It offers experts the unique opportunity to study how the Gothic church was built. As renovations began, it was revealed that huge iron staples had been used throughout the building to hold its heavy stones together. The discovery answers some questions about the innovative technology used to build what was, at the time, the tallest building in the world.

The staples each weigh between 4.4 and 8.8 pounds and span almost 20 inches. Researcher Maxime L’HĂ©ritier from the University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis and his colleagues found thousands of iron staples on the floor and walls that were only brought to light once the framework of the the church disappeared in the fire. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the ironwork belonged to the earliest stages of construction, making Notre-Dame a state-of-the-art construction site.

The use of lightweight iron, as opposed to the heavy masonry of Roman buildings, allowed for the tall, airy feel that is characteristic of gothic architecture. “Compared to other cathedrals, such as that of Reims, the structure of Notre-Dame de Paris is light and elegant”, share art historian Jennifer Feltman. Feltman was not involved in the study, but is an associate professor of art history at the University of Alabama specializing in medieval art. “This study confirms that the use of iron made possible this lighter structure in Paris and that the use of this material was therefore crucial for the design of the first Gothic architect of Notre-Dame.”

Since the the restoration is progressing at a rapid pace, the information couldn’t come at a better time. Notre Dame is rebuilt using traditional methods, so knowing how to reuse undamaged staples is essential. Researchers are currently testing the staples to see their current strength so they can make the most of what’s still salvageable.

The 2019 fire that ravaged Notre-Dame also revealed the advanced technology used to build the cathedral.

Notre Dame at night

Photo: STYLEPICS/Depositphotos

The researchers discovered that thousands of iron staples were used to hold the masonry together.

Stained glass windows of Notre-Dame cathedral


Innovative for their time, they allowed the feeling of lightness and airiness that became a hallmark of Gothic architecture.

Interior of Notre-Dame de Paris

Photo: scaliger/Depositphotos

h/t: [New Scientist]

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