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Notre Dame fire: a tremendous loss, an opportunity

A depiction of the Notre Dame Cathedral and its 19th-century spire in 2012. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France experienced a major fire on Monday, April 15 in which the famous spire collapsed. (Photo couresty David Merrett)

Details are slowly coming in after the devastating fire that happened at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15.

An CNN article reported the most likely cause of the fire was an electrical short. The investigation is still ongoing as officials have to wait for the building’s structure to be stabilized before being able to examine the evidence.

The construction of Notre Dame started in the year 1163, over 850 years ago, and held some of France’s most cherished treasures and religious icons.

It’s likely the full extent of what has been lost has not been realized, not just cultural items but things like the dendrochronology of the structure said Mary Jane Chase, a history professor at Westminster College.

Dendrochronology is a scientific technique of dating events and environmental changes by studying the growth patterns of a tree’s rings.

That kind of knowledge could have helped historians decipher which part of the cathedral was built first or tell of ecological events that may have affected France’s history, according to Chase.

“That’s true about history [though] things get lost,” Chase said. “War, fire, all those things are bad on history and this is happening all over the world,”

Though this is a terrible loss for Paris, some people say that it can be looked at as an opportunity as well.

Looking at this event from a financial perspective, a construction project of this size with donations reaching up towards a billion dollars will create infrastructure and jobs that will then put money into the French economy said Rick Haskell, a finance professor at Westminster College.

“Tragic though this may be, this is probably an economic windfall for Paris,” Haskell said.

In Notre Dame’s history it has faced several events that led it to needing restorations, like the French Revolution and World War ll.

“This is not the first time that Parisians have faced the loss of tremendous amount of art and culture,” Chase said. “This is something that the French usually rally around, and I trust that they will again. They certainly rallied about getting their treasures out of the cathedral, all of those people that had gotten in there at considerable risk to themselves to bring artwork out, it matters to people.”


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Katie is a senior communication major with an emphasis in graphic design. She likes to funnel her creativity in multiple different mediums. From oil paints to model making, she likes to keep her hands busy. Katie can normally be found petting random dogs on campus or reading on her phone in a variety of coffee shops.

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