Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder Friend. Wonder Friend Wonders, “What is the Notre Dame Fire?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend!

Here in Wonderopolis, we’ve learned quite a bit about human history’s great architectural feats. We know all about the Empire State Building. Many of our Wonder Friends have read about Petra and the Taj Mahal. Today, we’re traveling all the way to Paris, France, to learn about another massive structure. What are we talking about? Notre Dame Cathedral, of course!

Also called Notre Dame de Paris, the cathedral has stood in the heart of Paris for over 850 years. In April 2019, though, a disaster threatened the building’s long life. The world watched as flames leapt from the building’s roof. As the fire burned on, Notre Dame’s iconic spire fell.

Fortunately, fire crews had trained for this situation. The firefighters knew how to put out the flames without further harming the building’s structure. They had a plan and quickly went about saving the priceless artifacts inside the cathedral. 

When the flames were finally extinguished, people turned their thoughts to one question: What happened? What caused the fire? Investigation determined that the most likely cause was an electrical short. Soon, eyes turned to the monumental task of restoring Notre Dame. 

How does one go about restoring one of the world’s grandest cathedrals? Much of the work is led by restoration scientists. They look closely at the damage and decide on the best ways to rebuild. Their goal is to restore the structure without causing further problems. The age and history of Notre Dame make the process very complex.

For example, the roof and spire contained large amounts of lead. This is a hazardous material that was used in many buildings before the 1970s. Building crews have to be very careful when working in the area. Too much exposure to lead can harm their health.

Today, the restoration of Notre Dame is ongoing. Many people argue over how the building should be restored. Some want to see the traditional structures rebuilt. Others hope for new, modern designs. In 2020, it was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has vowed to complete the project by 2024.

In most years, Notre Dame welcomes millions of visitors. Until the restorations are complete, it will largely stand empty. Have you ever been to this towering cathedral? Would you like to visit? We hope one day, you have the chance!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3,

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