Alabama professor part of international Notre Dame research team

By WVUA23 News Student Reporter Chaney Scott

With smoke filling the sky, April 15, 2019, was quite literally a dark day for Paris, France. That’s when the famous Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire. The building is well into its restoration period and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2024, but it won’t yet be open when Paris hosts the 2024 summer Olympics.

A team of more than 200 archaeologists and scientists are working on restoring the church, including University of Alabama Associate Professor of medieval art and architecture Jennifer Feltman.

This mean has discovered key parts of Notre Dame’s original design that helped make the church so unique. For example, the building used iron reinforcements to help make its height possible, making it one of the first Gothic buildings to do so.

Several tombs and a sarcophagus from around the 1300s were also been uncovered at the cathedral, said France’s Ministry of Culture. When it was built in 1163, Notre Dame was the tallest building in the world with vaults reaching to 105 feet.

Feltman was selected as one of 14 members of the international research team Chantier Scientifique de Notre Dame

“This group is showing the fruit that can come from collaboration between scientists and historians and it also shows that knowledge of the past is necessary to preserve buildings of the future,” Feltman said.

Before the fire, the tourist landmark saw 12 million annual visitors. 

Feltman said seeing the cathedral before the fire was special because it was something she had only read about and studied for a long time. Visiting after the fire was an emotional time for her.

“It was really, really sad the first time after I saw it after the loss of the fire,” Feltman said. “That said, watching the workers reconstruct it is really heroic and inspiring.”

Feltman said the iconic spire will go up in the coming weeks.

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