In the wake of the terrible fire of the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the blow it poses to world heritage, we ask ourselves the extent to which monuments and artistic heritage are safe. Fire is undoubtedly one of the worst enemies in these cases, as the flames quickly devour the structures of the buildings.
In a fire, losses are irreversible, the fire destroys everything in its path. In the case of Notre Dame, thanks to the heroic action of firefighters and specialists, it has been possible to save the building's frame and its towers. In this way, their identity is preserved and the titanic restoration task becomes possible.
But many other architectural works were not so lucky and today they are only remembered through images or writings. In these lines We talked about some of the most outstanding buildings that suffered the fierce attack of the flames.
The Great Library of AlexandriaRecreation of the Library of Alexandria / Wikimedia Commons
It was said that it housed more than 900,000 manuscripts and that it was the largest in the world at the time. It must have been an unprecedented marvel, a luminous beacon of knowledge whose floor stepped on wise men like Archimedes or Euclid.
The Great Library of Alexandria was created a few years after the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great, in 331 BC.
Its complete destruction is not without questions and doubts. The most feasible sequence places a fire as the first accident in the year 47 BC. Julio César and his troops, joining forces with Cleopatra, tried to repel an attack on the city.
The emperor was besieged in the palace, while a fire would have spread to the library's book store. In that first incident about 40 000 rolls were lost. What is certain is that it was the first of numerous disasters that caused the decline of the Great Library.
Wars, diseases, earthquakes, political conflicts ... In each of the attacks, scrolls were destroyed and burned. A slow descent into hell that began with fire and ended up erasing its trace in history. Although accurate data on its appearance is lacking, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2002 to honor its memory.
The old St Paul's cathedral in London, engulfed in flamesEngraving with the old cathedral of St. Paul in flames / Wikimedia Commons
The old Gothic cathedral was built between 1087 and 1314, raising one of the highest spiers in Europe at the time. During the sixteenth century its deterioration and various looting were increasing. In 1561 lightning destroys the imposing needle and is not replaced.
Charles II of England plans in 1663 to restore its splendor. Hire the architect Christopher Wren, whose restoration plan is approved in 1666. Unfortunately, the Great Fire of London is triggered on September 2 of that same year.
The roof of the cathedral begins to burn on September 4. A large number of valuable objects had been stored inside, thinking that they would be safe from the flames there. The books only served to fan the fire.
Most of the building was lost and it was decided to build a new church instead of rebuilding the old one. The baroque construction is what has come so far. The old one is only known through paintings and prints. The Great Fire swept the city for three days, the only good part being the end of the bubonic plague in London.
The cathedral of León, rescued from the flamesLeon Cathedral
A story with less catastrophic consequences is that of thePulchra Leonina. One of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in our country also has one of the largest collections of medieval stained glass windows worldwide.
This jewel of our architecture was about to be lost on May 27, 1966. The cause was a fire that caused a lightning strike to fall on the roof. In this case, the brave and risky decision of the master of the works that were being carried out, Andrés Seoane, saved the building from the total disaster.
The master quarry warned firefighters of the danger of using water to quell the flames: the light and porous stone would absorb it, increasing its weight and causing a collapse. Instead, foam was used and released to the Cathedral of Flames.
The Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona, a symbol of the cityLyceum of Barcelona - Sergio Morchon / Flickr.com
On January 31, 1994, the inhabitants of Barcelona were disconsolate. The sparks produced by an operator's torch set off a terrible fire. Precisely, work was being done on the iron curtain to protect the theater room in a possible fire.
The flames soon became uncontrollable, destroying the theater in just over 15 minutes and reducing it to its foundations. It was not the first time it happened, but it was the greatest possible catastrophe.
After the great commotion and the massive mobilization of donations and sponsorship, the Lyceum could be rebuilt in the same place of La Rambla. It was reopened in 1999.
La Fenice of Venice, a sad story between llamasInterior of La Fenice
It is one of the most iconic opera houses that exist, in whose scenarios works such asLa Traviataof Verdi. It was inaugurated in 1792, after the fire that had ended with the San Benedetto theater.
Unfortunately, on January 29, 1996La venicehe had the same fate as his predecessor. Although he had already suffered the rage of fire on another occasion, it was absolutely destructive. Misfortune increased when it was discovered that the flames had been provoked.
The canals of Venice were being drained at that time and the lack of water made it difficult for firefighters. In a few hours, only the ashes were left of the wooden building.
The reconstruction tasks were carried out by the prestigious architect Aldo Rossi. He chose to respect the original character of the theater and was not free from criticism. The reopening took place in 2003.
There have been countless times the monuments have suffered from fire. In 2018 the National Museum of Brazil caught fire. Not only the nineteenth-century palace was lost, but also the most important collection of history and anthropology in Latin America. Serious fires in cities like Lisbon, Chicago or San Francisco have meant incalculable losses to the heritage that are still crying today.