- Notre-Dame Cathedral, in the heart of Paris, is on fire.
- The church took hundreds of years to build, and wooden support beams that were installed in the cathedral during the 1200s are still there today.
- Unlike the stone towers at the front of the building, those wooden frames inside make the church vulnerable to fire.
The blaze erupted late Monday afternoon as stunned tourists and locals stood on the streets of Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine where the church is. Many people took out their phones and filmed the bright orange flames billowing into the sky.
The two iconic stone bell towers at the front of Notre-Dame were not immediately consumed by the flames, but the roof of the church that connects those towers to the flying buttresses at the back was quickly engulfed in yellow-tinged smoke.
Construction crews had been working on a $6.8 million renovation of the church’s spire. That spire, pictured below, fell to the flames about an hour after the blaze broke out. A church spokesman told French media that the medieval frame, which is like the church’s skeleton, was also alight. That is not good news for the church.
The hulking framework of wooden beams that supports Notre-Dame is composed of huge pieces of timber, which is ripe for catching light. The supports are even called a “forêt” (or forest) because they’re enormous pieces of oak. This “charpente” (or frame) was built from 1,300 oak trees, enough wood to fill more than 21 hectares of land, La Tribune reported. According to Notre-Dame de Paris, the church framing is more than 100 meters long, and the beams that are burning have been standing there since the 13th century.
The wood framing sits under a lead roof, which weighs 210 metric tons.