The devastating fire that almost completely destroyed one of Paris’ most recognizable and beloved landmarks revealed a centuries-old secret about the Gothic-era cathedral that took even archaeologists by surprise.
Notre Dame Cathedral, built more than 850 years ago, was almost totally consumed by fire on April 15, 2019. In its time, the building was the tallest in the world with vaulted ceilings measuring a height of 105 feet, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
For years, archaeologists puzzled over how the builders “dared — and succeeded — in putting up such thin walls to such a height,” study author and archaeologist at University Paris, Maxime L’Heritier stated according to CBS News. That mystery was solved when, in the aftermath of the fire, investigators found the cathedral had been constructed with the help of iron reinforcements, or staples, the study revealed.
The fire that engulfed Notre-Dame four years ago has revealed a long-hidden secret about the Paris landmark. https://t.co/rMwIaWjKWh
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 16, 2023
Though iron staples had been used in the ancient world in sites like the Roman Coliseum, they were only used to keep large stone blocks in place on lower floors, CBS News reported. With Notre Dame, the iron staples appear throughout the construction, making it “unquestionably the first known Gothic cathedral where iron was massively used to bind stones as a proper construction material,” the study revealed.
This innovative technique was not only continuously used by builders in the 200 years it took to construct Notre Dame, but was also used on later cathedrals, according to the study.
After two years of working to make the cathedral stable again after the fire, reconstruction of the historic site began in 2022, according to the Associated Press. The spire, which collapsed in the fire, is expected to reappear in the Paris skyline later this year as crews work to bring the monument back to life in time for a projected 2024 re-opening. (RELATED: These Photos Show The Damage Done To The Notre Dame Cathedral)
“The return of the spire in Paris’ sky will in my opinion be the symbol that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame,” army general in charge of the reconstruction project, Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, told the AP.