Thursday, April 18, 2019

Restoring Notre Dame

 This post is a public service.  It was copied to the MEDIEV-L e-mail list by Terri Morgan.  Thanks, Terri.

A friend, Ian Steward,  who does reconstruction of historical buildings (mainly in the US but also in Europe & Canada) posted this on his Facebook account and gave permission to share it. I believe it may be germane to the discussion.  – Terri Morgan

*Pulls up soap box, climbs up*

It's been less than 48 hours, and it's amazing, though it shouldn't be, how much misinformation and just plain lies are floating around about Notre Dame. As a professional timber framer/architectural conservator with a Master's in Historic Preservation, who teaches Preservation Carpentry and is actively engaged in the preservation trades world, I felt the need to weigh in.

So, let me take a moment to put some things out there.

1. "The firemen did not do a good job."
-The fire brigade did exactly what they were supposed to. They got the people, then the artwork and artifacts out, then they fought the fire by keeping the stones cool so they would not break, and by keeping the fire from spreading. The only part of the structure which was seriously compromised was the stone vaulting under the spire, which was a later addition and was heavier than the vault could handle under stress. Especially since it turned into a flaming spear.

2. "There aren't the right trees, in France anymore" "The trees are too small"
- The oak is a prevalent tree in France, nay in all of Europe, to say that the trees don't exist is nonsense. Also, there were replacement trees planted during the le Duc restoration, so they're now rounding the 170+ year mark, perfect for this restoration.

3. "We don't have the craftspeople capable of doing this work."
- Stop, just stop. That sentence is flat out an insult, to myself, and to anyone else who plies my trade. In France there is an ancient Guild which does just this, the Compagnon, in the United States, there is the Timber Framers Guild. As for the other crafts, they are still alive and well, how else would buildings be restored? The Preservation Trades Network, the Engine Shed in Scotland, just to name a few are places where these trades are kept alive.

4. "It will have to be rebuilt to modern specifications"
- Why? It lasted for 800 years, and as I said earlier, did exactly what it was supposed to. The wooden part on a cathedral is seen as expendable, it's designed to burn and not damage the arches underneath. It's designed to be repaired/restored, like it was in the 19th century by le Duc.

5. "Lead is poisonous and shouldn't be used as a roof"
-Lead is also perfect for a cathedral roof, it doesn't succumb to oxidation and in this case, can last for nearly eight centuries. Think using lead is bad, don't go up and snack on the roof, otherwise you're good.

That's all for now. And so to end on a lighter note. I hear the investigation as to what the cause of the fire was is still ongoing. I think we should ask Quasimodo, I think he has a hunch...

*Climbs off soapbox*

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