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The Historic Timber Lost With the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

Dating back to the 12th century, “The Forest” was one of the main losses in the tragic cathedral fire.


Photo: fotolia.com / Jphoto4956
 
On April 15, 2019 a tragic fire burned through the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, destroying timber that’s more than 800 years old with it. According to the church’s website, the timber frame was given the name “The Forest,” as it required a literal forest’s worth of timber to create it.

The timber for the cathedral, one of the oldest structures in Paris, was felled sometime between 1160 and 1170, according to the church’s website.  The frame was primarily made of oak, and each beam originated from a different tree.
 
The New York Times reports that the fire began in the attic, and two-thirds of the roof was destroyed. As of this publishing, the cause remains unknown. After tearing through the attic, the fire spread to the spire, another wood-frame structure covered in lead.
 
Caroline Bruzelius, an art historian from Duke University who has studied Notre Dame for years, told NPR “…And what most people don't understand when they visit a cathedral is that above the vaults, there may be 50 to 60, or even more, feet of timber that support the enormous roof above the cathedral vaults. So between the vaults and the roof, there is a forest of timber.”
 
She said the timber was, of course, very old and “very dry.”
 
Learn more about the historic structure here. To contribute to the restoration, click here.