Paris and Chartres

Everyone knows the cathedral of the city of Paris as “Notre Dame,” but there are approximately sixty French cathedrals dedicated to some aspect of “Our Lady.” One of these is Chartres, probably the most famous French cathedral after Paris.

Chartres Cathedral from the southeast. Wikipedia.

My friend Mark Skocyzlas has just visited Chartres Cathedral, and tells me that it suffered, in 1836, a fire similar to that of Notre-Dame de Paris this past week. According to Wikipedia, “the old lead-covered roof, with its complex structure of timber supports (known as ‘the forest’) was destroyed by fire. It was replaced with a copper-clad roof supported by a network of cast iron ribs, known as theĀ charpente de fer (‘iron frame’). At the time, the framework over the crossing had the largest span of any iron-framed construction in Europe.”

“Charpente de fer,” Chartres Cathedral. Wikipedia.

A view of the interior of the roof space, which looks like a twenty-first century airport concourse, but in fact dates from the early industrial age. Presumably it is also more fire resistant, and a model for what could be done with Notre-Dame de Paris.

I confess that I don’t much care for calls that the rebuilding of Notre Dame should “reflect today’s multicultural France.” It’s a medieval Gothic cathedral, and remains a locus of Christian worship! That it is also a tourist attraction is of distinctly secondary importance. Please, let’s save the starchitect glass pyramids and “crystals” for other, less significant buildings.