By Mark Ellis –
Photos have emerged that appear to show an image of Jesus amidst the flames of the massive fire that engulfed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. For those who watched the fire in real time, it was feared the cathedral and its contents would be a total loss.
Yet when authorities went into the Gothic megachurch the next day, they were shocked by what they found.
“Wooden chairs still stood in neat rows,” noted Adam Goodheart, a history professor at Washington College, in the L.A. Times. “Votive candles lit by worshipers the day before still flickered in their sconces. Much of the cathedral appeared unscathed.”
Believers were especially touched to see photos of the altar apparently intact. Even the massive, 40-foot-wide rose windows, set in soft lead, survived with minimal damage.
Did God really protect the cathedral on that dark day? Undoubtedly yes, but the lion’s share of the protection came from the inspiration He provided the medieval architects and builders.
“A crucial fact missing in most of the coverage of the Notre Dame fire was that the cathedral in effect had two roofs: one made of 800-year-old wood, and beneath it another one made of 800-year-old stone,” noted Professor Goodheart in The Times. “It appears that the stone roof held, apart from the collapse of two sections of vaulting.”
Goodheart noted that while the beautiful structure appeared somewhat fragile on the outside, with its flying buttresses, slender columns and ribs of stone, this actually “masked a formidable strength.”
“The architects of Notre Dame…used pointed arches, ribbed vaults, columns and flying buttresses to transmit the weight of all that stone outward and downward into massive, deep-set foundations. Flying buttresses brought to bear equal and opposing forces that held — and still hold — the whole thing together.”
Taking a page from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, the church was built on solid Rock:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
The ceiling also had an ingenious design. “A Gothic cathedral’s vaulted stone ceiling, crisscrossed by interlocking ribs, is like a spider web that can lose one segment without compromising the whole,” Professor Goodheart observed.
“The vaults withstood a barrage of millions of pounds of burning wood and molten lead, apparently only giving way beneath the plummeting spire that alone weighed 750 tons.”
Even the iconic spire that toppled in the conflagration “was a 19th century replacement of an original that was taken down in 1786. It was well documented and can be faithfully reconstructed. In an astonishing stroke of good luck, the spire’s most important sculptures had been removed for restoration just a few days ago.”