Notre-Dame de Paris fire leads to new discovery — RT Games & Culture

The devastating 2019 fire at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has led to a new discovery about the methods used to build this iconic landmark, after experts leading the cathedral’s restoration efforts were able to investigate previously concealed parts of the building.

The results were published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE by Maxime L’Héritier of the University of Paris 8 and his colleagues. They discovered that Notre-Dame de Paris was perhaps the first known Gothic cathedral to primarily use iron to bind stones throughout its construction.

The cathedral was built in the mid-12th century and was the tallest building ever erected at the time, with its vaults rising to 32 meters (104 ft) high. Although previous research has suggested that this record was achieved by combining a number of architectural innovations, until now experts still lack a full understanding of the materials used in construction or the role played by the iron in this ambitious undertaking.

The 2019 fire, however, allowed archaeologists to access previously unseen parts of Notre-Dame. L’Héritier and his team were able to obtain material samples from 12 iron staples used to bind stones together in different parts of the building, including the galleries, nave aisles and upper walls.

The researchers used a number of analytical methods, including radiocarbon dating as well as microscopic, chemical and metallurgical analysis. The team discovered that iron staples were used in the early construction phases of Notre Dame in the 1160s, making it the first building of its type to use iron staples throughout its structure.

The analysis not only made it possible to better understand how the Parisian master masons built the cathedral, but also provided details on the supply of iron to the site and on the circulation, trade and forge of iron in the Paris of the XII and XIII centuries.

The reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral after the fire of April 15, 2019 is still in progress and should last about twenty years. However, restoration efforts have led to significant discoveries. Previously, archaeologists had found several tombs and a 14th-century sarcophagus – both of “remarkable scientific quality”, as well as pieces of painted carvings believed to be part of the original decorations.

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