[Duncan Stroik] Notre Dame no place for building experiments: New spire shouldn't look new

[Duncan Stroik] Notre Dame no place for building experiments: New spire shouldn’t look new

Opinion
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[TheAmericanConservative] Two days after the horrific fire at the most beloved Gothic cathedral in the world Prime Minister Philippe announced a competition to replace the spire. Why would we replace the historic cathedral spire unless it was ugly, poorly constructed, or incongruous with the cathedral? A few days later, we saw the first of many designs exhibiting a greenhouse and a glass and steel spire denuded of all reference to the masterpiece. What should be done with Notre Dame’s spire?

VIDEO: [ABC News] New images of Notre Dame Cathedral show extent of fire damage. [Apr 17, 2019]


First we need to understand the history of the spire. An earlier spire in danger of falling was dismantled in 1786 and the French revolution assured that it was not rebuilt. Only when the cathedral was restored seventy years later was a new spire added. That second spire is the one that was destroyed during Holy Week.

The spire — in architectural terms, the flèche or arrow — is typically a metal tower with a conical roof placed at a crossing or on top of another tower. New Yorkers can see them on various churches throughout the city. At Notre Dame the flèche marked the crossing, where the nave and transept meet. It pointed up to the heavens like an arrow for which it is named.

The architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, created something new but in the original style. After a study of historic towers, he determined that Notre Dame required a flèche equal to the height of the main church body which is 150 feet tall. At 305 feet above the ground, its only rival in Paris until recently was the great spire by Eiffel. Thanks to the wonderful Parisian height limit the flèche can seen from around the city, most romantically from the banks of the Seine. A gray metallic pinnacle, the flèche seemed to grow organically out of the roof, while its design was in perfect keeping with the stained-glass windows and the flying buttresses below.

In the 1850s, the new spire was beautifully hand-crafted out of 50 tons of lead over a wooden armature weighing 180 tons. This hidden oak structure was part of the attic structure, which helps explain why the fire brought down the spire so quickly. The octagonal base of the spire was surrounded by larger than life statues of the apostles and evangelists, fortuitously removed before the fire. Above them, two levels of pointed arches were crowned by gables and gargoyles. Tall pinnacles at the corners ring the pièce de résistance, the tall conical roof covered with croqs or crockets, inspired by the “crook” of a bishop. On top of the croq covered roof is a large cross topped by a coq (rooster).

This article continues at [TheAmericanConservative] Why Notre Dame’s Gothic Spire Should Be Rebuilt

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