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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Saving Notre Dame

Notre Dame fire, April 15, 2019. Paris, France.
Credit: © Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Notre Dame fire, April 15, 2019. Paris, France.

Stream or tune in Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

When the roof of the Notre Dame cathedral erupted into flames in April of 2019, firefighters battled for nine grueling hours to save the historic landmark. Still, Paris came alarmingly close to losing more than 800 years of history.

Now engineers and scientists are racing to protect and ultimately rebuild the medieval structure. But it’s a complicated and dangerous task. Get an inside look on NOVA "Saving Notre Dame."

Underneath the charred scaffolding and vaulted ceilings of the cathedral, scientists study the components of Notre Dame’s iconic structure to puzzle out how best to repair it.

Deep below the streets of Paris, researchers explore medieval quarries, investigating the marine fossils they hold to figure out where the cathedral ceiling’s original limestone was mined from.

In a cutting-edge laboratory, glass conservators painstakingly repair Notre Dame’s stained-glass windows, removing vaporized lead left behind by the inferno.

And in the countryside, carpenters show how specific trees could be chosen for their grain to mimic the curves of the timbers of the cathedral’s towering attic—the so-called “forest.”

As luck would have it, advanced scanning technology had recently been used to create an elaborate digital model of the cathedral, creating an invaluable reference for the original structure.

Even as investigators try to piece together what happened the day of the fire, scientists come together across disciplines to determine how they can reconstruct this icon of history and culture — and how such a catastrophe can be avoided in the future.

Notre Dame windows, vaulted ceiling damage to roof.
Courtesy of Windfall Productions
Notre Dame windows, vaulted ceiling damage to roof.

Watch On Your Schedule:

This episode will be available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast, for a limited time.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Rose Window damaged timbers.
Courtesy of Windfall Productions
Rose Window damaged timbers.

Join The Conversation:

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Credits:

A NOVA production by Windfall Films Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for GBH Boston in association with BBC. Director is Joby Lubman. Producer is Alessandra Bonomolo. Executive Producer is Carlo Massarella. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH Boston.