Norte Dame Cathedral was almost destroyed during the French Revolution, and during the reigns of King Louis XIV and Napoleon
Over the last 856 years, the cathedral has faced ill-advised remodeling, revolutionary looting, and mob rage, as well as decay caused due to pollution
A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper portion of the Notre Dame Cathedral located in the capital of France while it was undergoing renovations on Monday. The fire, which had reportedly broken out in an attic in the cathedral, took less than an hour to spread across the roof and caused the spire to collapse. The stone ceiling vault located beneath the roof prevented most of the fire from falling into the interior below.
The cathedral would have burned to the ground last night had it not been for the 500 firefighters who did all they could to prevent the historic site from total devastation. Over the last 856 years, the cathedral has faced ill-advised remodeling, revolutionary looting, and mob rage, as well as decay caused due to pollution.
These are the many times when the Notre Dame Cathedral faced a threat and overcame:
The French Revolution in the 1790s
When the French Revolution took place during the 1970s, angry mobs and revolutionaries decided to loot the medieval gothic church while declaring that they did not consider it a church at all. This was done as an attempt to remove and tarnish France's close ties to the Catholic church. A majority of French people were Catholic and the state religion was also Catholicism. The church was extremely powerful, owned lots of property and collected heavy taxes from people's income even though the church never paid taxes of its own. However, several French people had grown sick of the immense power of the church. In this time, the statues of biblical figures there were also beheaded.
The reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715)
It was during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) that the medieval style cathedral had to undergo an unfortunate renovation. As a result of the renovation, the stained glass was replaced with clear windows while a pillar was demolished to allow carriages to pass through. The original rood screen, which is an ornate partition usually made of wood or stone that divides the nave from the chancel, was torn down.
Notre Dame faced some major repairs and restorations as the historic structure became prey to natural weather changes and pollution. The architect in chief of historic monuments in France, Philippe Villeneuve, told Time, "Pollution is the biggest culprit. We need to replace the ruined stones. We need to replace the joints with traditional materials. This is going to be extensive." Centuries of harsh weather conditions had damaged the stones.
Victor Hugo's book titled ' The Hunchback of Notre Dame' which released in 1831 raised several alarms about the cathedral's deteriorating conditions and also described, "mutilations, amputations, dislocations of the joints." However, his book resulted in a fresh set of problems. It inspired a restoration in 1844 which used low-quality stone and cement which further worsened the conditions. At the time, France could not produce the required high-grade material.
Cathedral almost demolished in 1804
According to the Cathedral's website, there was a point in time when the Notre Dame Cathedral was in a state of total despair and was extremely close to being demolished. However, it was with the help and assistance of Napoleon that the structure was saved. In 1804, Napoleon ended up being crowned as the Emperor of France inside the cathedral itself.
Threat from Germans during World War II
When the Second World War broke out, the Notre Dame Cathedral had been restored to its prime beauty. However, as the war grew more aggressive and intensified, rumors began that German soldiers may attempt to destroy the newly installed stained glass inside the Cathedral. The glass was removed as a result but then reinstalled after the war had ended.
During World War II, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz to be prepared to destroy all the historic and religious monuments in Paris. However, in Choltitz's memoir which he wrote in 1951, Choltitz took credit for saving the capital and claimed that he disobeyed Hitler's orders. He reportedly said, "If for this first time I disobeyed (an order), it was because I knew Hitler was crazy."