That stone & mortar is 1000 years old, and it is now super-hot. If you dump thousands of pounds of water on it, it will crumble.
The mortar originally used to build Notre Dame was water, sand and lime. Which isn’t waterproof. It required continual upkeep.
When stone buildings burn, both mortar & stone can be rendered fragile by the heat.(It happens with brick, too.) After being exposed to hundreds or thousands of degrees, the stone loses the ability to support what’s above.
This is pure tragedy.
It could be carved and fitted with the same tools.
But workability = fragility.
For cathedral builders, yes, they were an expression of faith, but also of love of their world.
Now multiply that love because building the cathedral is employment and shelter and cameraderie and the center of lives for generations.
Every stone represents a family fed & sheltered, a market for wool and wheat.
We have one less window made by an anonymous glass worker (who may have been male or female). One less tapestry.
A cathedral isn’t a house.
It’s the evidence of the material culture of a society that no longer exists.
We lack diaries from 13th century stone masons, but our technology can distinguish individual carvers. From there, we see their behavioral ergonomics.
You know that we’ve figured out that a 10th century recipe using onions & garlic is effective against a specific type of staph infection, right?
That points towards new antimicrobials. Which we need.
Huh. Wonder what we could learn?
And to regret what we cannot recreate, if only because the very material — limestone — is now limited.
Notre Dame & St Denis & Santiago de Compostela & Ely & Winchester & York & Canterbury had priests who believed that the people they lived with every day were worth preserving & healing & feeding & sheltering for generations.
They were, in their way, progressive.
They were the first Long Now.
They understood that we have to think in centuries, not the quarterly profit-loss statement.
They knew that everyone in their community had to take care of everyone else, because they all spent every day knowing that what they built, they would not see completed.
It’s Angkor Wat.
It’s Hagia Sofia.
It’s the Buddhas of Bamyan.
It’s the coral reefs.
It’s species loss.
Our planet, and our history, are on fire.
We have 11 years.
We are now in the watchful waiting stage, while the fire burns out and everything cools.