08.16.20: Inside Notre-Dame

 I like how it shows the massive size of the cathedral and relies on available light — the candles, chandeliers and daylight streaming through the high windows — for illumination.

Photographing Notre-Dame, before the fire

Two summers ago my wife and I joined some friends on a Viking River Cruise in France. It was an enjoyable trip . We visited many sites that had stood for centuries and will likely remain for at least a few more.

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was one of those memorable sites. The famed church, built during a hundred-year period beginning in 1160,  is the most visited monument in Paris with more than 12 million people visiting each year. It was the site of the coronation of Napoleon I and has hosted funerals for many French Republic presidents.

I really enjoyed our visit to Notre-Dame. As expected, I captured a number of nice photos inside and outside the cathedral. This photo, showing worshippers lighting candles beneath the towering ceilings inside the cathedral, is one of my favorites.  I like how it shows the massive size of the cathedral and relies on available light — the candles, chandeliers and daylight streaming through the high windows — for illumination.

But nine months after our July 2018 visit the church was heavily damaged by a fire thought to have been caused by a renovation and restoration project that was underway. My wife and I watched on TV at home as smoke and massive flames rose through the roof of the cathedral in a fire that burned for about 15 hours. The fire destroyed the cathedral’s spire, most of the lead-covered wooden roof and the oak roof beams that supported the roof structure.

It was sad to watch, but there was good news. The cathedral’s main structure was intact and firefighters saved the stained glass windows, towers, walls, buttresses and facade. The famed 18th century Great Organ, with more than 8,000 pipes, sustained water damage but was saved.

After the fire there were many proposals to modernize Notre-Dame, but on July 16, 2019 — almost exactly a year after our visit to the cathedral — the French Parliament passed a law that requires Notre-Dame to be rebuilt exactly as it stood before the fire. Current plans are for the reconstruction to be completed by spring 2024.


Worshippers light candles inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Worshippers light candles inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: July 13, 2018, 2:43 p.m.
  • Location: 48°51'11.7"N 2°20'57.6"E (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
  • Lens: CanonEF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (10mm)
  • Aperture: f/3.5
  • Shutter: 1/40th second
  • ISO: 4000