Bauhaus architecture, 1919-2019

This January 2019 video from Germany is called Architecture, art and design – 100 years of the Bauhaus (1/3) | DW Documentary.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus art school and movement: “A New Era”

2 November 2019

Rarely has an anniversary been so extensively celebrated and commented on in Germany as the founding of the Bauhaus School (Staatliches Bauhaus) in Weimar in 1919.

Cities all over the country have opened their cultural institutions, museums, theatres, schools of art and further education to a host of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and performances devoted to the famed art and design school and subsequent movement.

Numerous books and articles have also appeared, along with a series of films and documentaries on television and radio. The celebrations even include the construction of two new museums, in Weimar and Dessau, aimed at preserving the Bauhaus legacy.

The question arises: what is so special about this school, which existed for only 14 years and was forced to change its location three times in Germany due to the hostile reaction of conservative and nationalist forces?

(Bauhaus literally means “building house” in German, or “School of Building”, although, ironically, the institution did not have an architecture department to begin with.)

Undoubtedly, the Bauhaus artistic movement has had an enormous influence over the course of the past century. As one art historian comments, “Its assimilation throughout the world can be traced … in numerous buildings, artworks, objects, designs, concepts, and curricula.” Its founder, architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), writing in 1923, noted that the movement’s “identifying traits are clear, well-proportioned lines from which all unnecessary ingredients have been removed—the same traits characteristic of the modern engineered products of the machine.”

Walter Gropius

However, the contemporary significance of the Bauhaus does not lie merely in the forms of modern design it developed and propagated or the simple, functional architecture that was to largely characterise the 20th century—until its replacement by postmodernist conceptions of design. Above all, what makes Bauhaus special is its notion of combining many forms of artistic work and unleashing the creative power made possible by collective work. It appears that as the crisis of capitalism intensifies there is a longing for forms of creativity that no longer strive merely for individual “self-realisation,” but rather address real social needs and problems.

This need coincides with the general goals and perspectives with which the Bauhaus was founded and developed. In its founding manifesto, Gropius placed construction at the center of artistic work by attempting to build on the artisanal and artistic traditions of medieval architecture. The building, its space and everything in it, should be designed to serve the people. This principle should also apply to what appears to be at first glance a backward-looking return to craftsmanship and its foundations. In fact such craftsmanship is deliberately aimed at creating models which can then be produced industrially.

Foyer of the Bauhaus University, Weimar

In the April 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto, Gropius wrote: “The ultimate goal of all art is the building! The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavours of all artisans. Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts. Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture, which it lost in salon art …

“So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

Lyonel Feininger, Bauhaus Manifesto, 1919

It is no accident that the manifesto was adorned by a sketch of a cathedral by Lyonel Feininger, symbolically expressing the common aspiration of artists, master builders and craftsmen.

Even prior to the First World War, the architect Gropius had assimilated the ideas of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, established in 1907), which called for an economic and cultural “union of artists, architects, entrepreneurs and experts” whose central concern was the search for a new form of architecture centered on “function”, “materials” and “construction.” These concepts were further discussed by architects and artists during the war. They were not limited to Germany or the Bauhaus, but were discussed and developed internationally, with different tendencies influencing one other.

One of the most important representatives of the association of art, architecture and arts and crafts schools in Germany was the architect Bruno Taut, whose exemplary large Berlin housing developments (“Hufeisensiedlung”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” etc.) are today part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In 1918, Taut was one of the founders of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers Council for Art, or Art Soviet), which drew its inspiration from the workers ‘and soldiers’ councils founded in Berlin at the same time, as well as from the 1917 October Revolution. Taut set himself the goal of bringing progressive developments and trends in architecture and art to broader layers of the population. He believed that capitalism was a grotesque system and had to perish. Like many artists of the time, members of the “art soviet” were reacting to important impulses from political and artistic developments and discussions in post-revolutionary Russia.

Bauhaus-style building in Chemnitz, Germany

A March 1, 1919 leaflet produced by the Arbeitsrat, for example, read: “Priority rests with the guiding principle: art and the people must form a unity. Art should no longer be the plaything of a few, but rather the fortune and life of the masses. The aim is to combine the arts under the wings of a splendid architecture.”

At the end of World War I, Gropius also joined the “soviet” and played a leading role in it.

Bauhaus—A New Era

Bauhaus—A New Era is the title of a six-part series that recently featured on German television to coincide with the Bauhaus anniversary. The title is entirely apposite. It refers to the social approach of the Bauhaus school, which remains so relevant today. The school emerged from its predecessors, the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School and the School of Applied Arts founded by Henry van de Velde in Weimar in 1907, in whose buildings it initiated its work.

The television series is limited to the Weimar years of the Bauhaus. It depicts the spirit of optimism and enthusiasm that made possible highly progressive solutions despite the severe material shortages. Under these conditions, Bauhaus students developed new and creative methods of producing materials, often based on recycling existing sources.

Weimar was traditionally associated with German artistic giants Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and reactionary forces in the city were quite prepared to distort the heritage of these two radical thinkers and artists to justify their own backward nationalism against everything Bauhaus stood for. They deplored the school’s internationalism, its opening up of opportunities for women and efforts to overcome boundaries between various arts and crafts to develop a comprehensive socially based concept.

Gropius (August Diehl) had already applied for the post of heading the Weimar school from the trenches of the First World War. The opening credits of the first part of the series feature this scene against the backdrop of images from the war. Both pupils and teachers (known as masters) returned from the horrors of war to what they hoped would be a fresh start for society, a new society which they were prepared to fight for with all their might.

Bauhaus—A New Era stands in contrast to the television film Bauhaus (original German title, Lotte am Bauhaus, 2019, directed by Gregor Schnitzler) recently broadcast on the ARD television channel, which is dominated by a love story and concentrates on the theme of the supposed oppression and discrimination of women at the Bauhaus.

The six-part series directed by Lars Kraume (The People vs. Fritz Bauer, 2015) has a number of strengths, even if the basic story and the choice of Dörte Helm (also present in the Schnitzler-directed film) as main protagonist initially suggest a similar approach. Kraume and his team have carried out extensive research to provide a realistic insight into the spirit of elation and enthusiasm with which the students, male and female, and masters, took up their work.

The series opens with an interview with an 80-year-old Walter Gropius in New York City carried out by the feminist journalist Stine Branderup (Trine Dyrholm), who accuses the architect of oppressing female students at the Bauhaus.

Branderup brings up Helm (Anna Maria Mühe) as an example of such alleged repression. Helm is able to develop herself and play a leading role among the students. The series explores the different factors determining why the talented young woman is not able to rise to the position of master-professor.

Kraume also deals with issue of the failure of the school to fully implement equality between the sexes, although the Bauhaus makes clear it favours equality for women. Instead of simply laying blame, the series presents a number of plausible explanations based on Gropius’ manoeuvres aimed at preserving the school.

Gropius has the support of the Social Democratic education minister Max Greil (Sebastian Blomberg), who, however, repeatedly makes concessions to the members of Weimar’s conservative-nationalist “fine society” and other reactionary circles. These included previous masters of the former art school and its pupils who despise Gropius for allowing Jews, women and Bolsheviks to participate in the Bauhaus. The prejudices of some of the teachers brought to the school by Gropius also play a significant role.

The establishment of a “women’s-only class” and the banning of female students from all the activities apart from work in the weaving department was undoubtedly a concession to the hostility and prejudices Gropius confronted. But as the film shows, the weavers were not oppressed. Rather, the textile workshop at Bauhaus headed by Gunta Stölzl (Valerie Pacher) developed into a highly creative center for textile art and technology and became one of the school’s most economically successful workshops.

Regarding the conflict about equal rights for women, Kraume explains: “Of all of the biographies, hers [Dörte Helm’s] was best suited to our story. She came from a middle-class home and yet was the most rebellious amongst her fellow students. She was denied matriculation but then resumed her studies, and had an unexplained relationship with Gropius on the basis of which she was able to join the painting class of Oskar Schlemmer, although women were only supposed to participate in weaving. Finally, after many conflicts, she moved back to her patriarchal father in Rostock. We asked ourselves the question, why.”

The role played by Gropius’ alleged affair with Helm remains unclear, but it clearly provides for dramatic film material. The court assembled to clarify whether Gropius did have a relationship with his student really existed and concluded there was no basis for the accusation.

Was the Bauhaus “political”?

Although the alleged affair occupies a central role, the series includes powerful scenes, performed by a cast of outstanding actors, which throw light on the history of the Bauhaus and why the school continues to fascinate up until today.

Kraume and his team have inserted key dramatic events drawn from the social struggles that took place between 1919 and 1923. The scenes commence with original film material from the battlefields of World War I. Later scenes, shot partly in black-and-white, feature battles between workers and police and in particular the events surrounding the general strike carried out by German workers to oppose the counterrevolutionary Kapp Putsch in March 1920. The militant resistance by workers was supported by many Bauhaus students.

Gropius sought to protect his school against reactionary forces by declaring it to be “unpolitical”, but there could be no escape from the political strife and antagonisms that dominated the early years of the Weimar Republic.

Time and again, A New Era reveals the precarious conditions under which members of the Bauhaus fought to further their aims of freedom of art, emancipation and internationalism against a host of right-wing forces. Based on their artistic work, the Bauhaus students were determined to overcome social differences and contribute to a better understanding between different nationalities.

Achievements, contradictions and conflict in the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus school is often associated with “reduced colours, clean lines and functionality”, but that is only partially true and applies above all to the work of Bauhaus in Dessau. During its period in Weimar the school’s approach was much broader and more colourful. The series shows this clearly.

This was precisely the approach adopted by those masters employed by Gropius in the school’s early days, including Johannes Itten (Sven Schelker), Lyonel Feininger (Ernst Stötzner), Oskar Schlemmer (Tilo Werner), Marcel Breuer (Ludwig Trepke), Wassily Kandinsky (Pjotr Olev), Paul Klee (Marek Harloff) and later Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (Alexandru Cirneala). Some of these artists had already made a name for themselves as Expressionists before the war.

The inclusion of dance and theatre in the school’s education program was also revolutionary. The series depicts Bauhaus evenings which included performances by well-known artists, such as Else Lasker-Schüler (Marie-Lou Sellem), as well as the famous Bauhaus festivals with their imaginative costumes and lanterns, expressing the hunger for life on the part of young people following the horrors of the World War.

Fierce polemics about the artistic orientation of Bauhaus’ educational program are also addressed in A New Era. In the course of the Weimar years, these conflicts developed mainly around the teachings of Itten and his followers, who in their endeavour to place the perfection of man at the center of their artistic activity turned to extreme forms of lifestyle. The conflict with Itten eventually led to his departure from the school. Nevertheless, albeit with some changes, the compulsory preliminary course developed by Itten, requiring all students to acquire basic skills in dealing with color, materials and techniques, was retained.

At the same time, great weight was placed on clear, constructivist forms based on the principle of “form follows function,” as well as a concentration on primary colours, represented by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg from the De Stijl (“The Style”) movement who was invited to the school as a guest speaker. De Stijl had many followers at the Bauhaus, although Doesburg was never appointed as a lecturer.

The sixth and last part of the series is devoted to the highly successful Bauhaus exhibition of 1923 which, for the first time, combined all of the various arts and crafts in the form of a new building—the Haus am Horn. The intention was to build an affordable house with all the features necessary for a family. The Haus am Horn predates the conceptions developed later in Dessau, i.e., construction with cheap and in part prefabricated but solid materials, together with simple but functional and appealing interior accessories.

Haus am Horn

However, the end of Weimar was not far away. In 1924, funding for the school was withdrawn following the election of a right-wing, German-nationalist administration in the state of Thuringia. The Bauhaus was forced to find a new location in the industrial city of Dessau.

The approach to the training of artists and architects encouraged by Gropius and his co-workers continues to be fruitful in many respects. Even if they could not solve many problems due to the constraints of capitalist society and the devastation of culture by the National Socialists and war, a study of the school’s ideas and aesthetic conceptions remains rewarding.

Bauhaus in Dessau [Source: Hjochheim]

The issues and contradictions surrounding art, design and building, posed in Weimar in 1919, are again very relevant at a time when ultra-right forces are once again seeking to influence cultural affairs. A whole layer of intellectuals is embracing reactionary politics.

In Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is threatening to withdraw funding to artists and projects that seek to defend the rights of refugees and immigrants, should the party come to power. It is already agitating against art which does not conform to the party’s own thoroughly nationalist and backward provincial outlook.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ines Weizman, a professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, was asked: “Do the Bauhaus institutions—in the light of this history—have a socio-political responsibility today?”

She replied: “Yes, that is very important! Then as now we must make a stand against right-wing tendencies and their attacks against cultural institutions and recognise the international network of scientists, teaching institutions, cultural institutions, collections and involved public celebrated in 2019, to be a strong, unifying force against the right wing.”

Weizman went on to criticise the decision by the Bauhaus in Dessau to cancel a concert in 2018 by the left-wing punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet following threats of counter-demonstrations by the far right.

The author also recommends:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus
[25 January 2019]

Paris, France children Notre-Dame fire lead poisoning

This 6 August 2019 video from France says about itself:

A top French labour union and environmental health groups have banded together to demand Notre-Dame Cathedral be covered and sealed after the fire that destroyed its roof, deeming it an ongoing source of lead pollution.

By Sam Dalton:

Paris’s Notre Dame fire: Two children test positive for lead poisoning

12 August 2019

Four months after the April 15 fire at the Notre Dame cathedral, during which up to 440 tons of lead roofing was dispersed by smoke into the surrounding areas of Paris, at least two children have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

The revelations are an indictment of the local Parisian government of Socialist Party Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the national government of Emmanuel Macron, which have worked to cover up the lead poisoning scandal since the fire occurred and insisted that there is no danger to the population. The government’s actions, including its refusal to close local schools, have meant that hundreds of children have been kept at creches and on school grounds contaminated by lead for months. They are now in danger of permanent damage.

The Parisian Regional Health Authority (Agence Regionale de Santé–ARS) announced the results of the tests of 175 children on August 6. Sixteen were measured to have lead blood levels requiring continued monitoring (between 20 and 49 micrograms of lead per litre of blood), and two with levels above the 50 micrograms indicating a risk of lead poisoning.

While the French government’s categorization assumes levels below 50 micrograms of lead per litre of blood do not pose an immediate risk of blood poisoning, the World Health Organization states that even levels as low as 5 micrograms per litre can pose a significant danger to children. Given the small number of tests conducted so far, it is likely that many more people are now threatened with lead poisoning.

Of the two children recorded with higher lead levels so far, one was a student at a school located in the 6th arrondissement—within a 500-meter radius of the cathedral—that was closed on July 25, when Parisian authorities were finally compelled to respond to a popular outcry at the reports of lead contamination in the playground shared with a second neighbouring school.

Part of the school grounds had recorded lead concentration levels of up to 5,000 micrograms per square meter (μg/m2). This is more than 70 times the level of 70 μg/m² level specified by a 2016 French General Health Directorate advisory as signifying “risk of lead poisoning to children.”

The authorities’ cover-up of these results meant the school continued to function more than three months after the fire had occurred, during which time the government denied that there was any danger to the students.

On July 29, Annie Thébaud-Mony, the honorary research director at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, told Le Monde that a measurement of 5,000 μg/m2 was “gigantic” and “corresponds to what one can see in decontamination factories for recycling batteries or treating electromagnetic waste materials. They are a sign of massive contamination that will inevitably create victims.”

On July 26, the environmental protection NGO Robin Hood filed a lawsuit against multiple government organizations for placing the population in danger through its response to the lead danger. The suit charges the Macron administration’s Ministry of Culture, the mayor of Paris, the local councillors of the 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements of the city, as well as the ARS, with the placing of other individuals’ lives in danger, non-assistance to individuals in danger, and providing false and misleading information to the public.

“We estimate that, since the start, there has been a shortcoming of information diffused to the public and that [people] have been victims of false information and toxicity,” said Jacky Bonnemains, the president of the organization.

The organization had published an alert about the risk of lead pollution from the cathedral’s spires and roof on April 19—four days after the fire. This was followed up by a letter sent to the ARS for the Ile-de-France, the Minister for Culture, Minister of Health and the Minister for Labour. The letter requested that the authorities “put in place as soon as possible a coordinated protocol for monitoring dust and lead particles and other toxic substances in and around the cathedral.”

These appeals were ignored.

The Robin Hood NGO also published a letter received from University of Manchester Professor Michael Anderson. He emphasized the importance of rapid decontamination, given the risk that “lead particles will be carried into water sources.”

Not until a month after the Notre Dame fire were tests for lead levels ordered by the Parisian authorities. The results of the tests were made public in leaks published by Médiapart on July 18. They showed that of 196 tests in 10 schools and creches within 500 meters of the cathedral, 31 recorded levels equal to or greater than the 70 μg/m2 threshold, and some many tens of times over.

The local Parisian government covered over these figures, citing only average concentrations of lead, rather than the highest local points of concentration, which children could nonetheless be exposed to.

Bonnemains noted that the government has focused its attention on rebuilding Notre Dame rapidly before the 2024 Olympic games, but “making the cathedral sanitary has been completely overlooked.”

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, absorbing four to five times more lead than adults. Lead poisoning can cause many health difficulties, most severely, irreversible brain damage.

A deep clean of the schools that had been closed down in July began last week. The cleaning teams wore heavy protective gear appropriate to the danger of the site, which in the past three months children used regularly for play. Meanwhile the reconstruction efforts have now been halted on the site of Notre Dame itself, acknowledging the danger posed to workers. Nonetheless, the government has refused to accept calls by NGOs and the … CGT trade union federation to place a plastic cover over the cathedral itself.

Even the totally inadequate measures enacted so far have been due to public outrage at the government’s lies and indifference to the health of the population. The emergency bill passed in the confusion following the fire ordering the immediate reconstruction of Notre Dame provides authorities with “exemptions or adaptions applying to the protection of the environment and the evacuation and treatment of waste.”

The fire itself was the outcome of the starvation of resources on the cultural site, including staffing cuts and overworked personnel unable to properly utilize the complex fire detection system.

HOW A NOTRE DAME CONSPIRACY THEORY LED TO A SHOOTING  When the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire, far-right pundits spread groundless accusations that Muslim attackers started the blaze. Last week, a former far-right political candidate who had embraced that conspiracy theory went to a French mosque and tried to set it on fire. He shot two Muslim men who confronted him. [HuffPost]

USA: Bottled water distributions begin as lead water poisoning crisis erupts in Newark, New Jersey: here.

LEAD CRISIS HITS NEW JERSEY Residents in Newark, New Jersey, are facing a growing emergency over lead contamination in the city’s drinking water supply. The crisis is the result of years of mismanagement and has forced city officials to warn tens of thousands of residents against drinking tap water for fear of lead poisoning. [HuffPost]

On Tuesday, city officials in Newark, New Jersey were forced to halt handouts of bottled water over concerns over expiration labels. The emergency distribution had just begun on Monday in response to reports last week of high lead contamination in the city’s drinking water even after the use of home tap filters: here.

Earlier this month, the results of testing conducted in Newark, New Jersey’s public schools in August 2018 were released, showing that seven schools have lead-contaminated water. These results were released as the result of a public records request by WNYC/Gothamist; the city government of Newark did not post the results on its website, a violation of state rules: here.

Ancient monastery, squacco herons, flycatcher, Tilos, Greece

This July 2013 video is called Tilos, Greece – Agios Panteleimonas Monastery.

After 10 May 2019 May on Tilos came 11 May.

A woodchat shrike on a wire.

At Agios Antonios, still two squacco herons present.

We followed the mountain road from Agios Antonios to Agios Panteleimonas monastery. Originally from the 15th century, monks no longer live there.

Agios Panteleimonas monastery, 11 May 2019

Religious objects are still present.

Mosaic, 11 May 2019

So are mosaics.

Viewpoint, 11 May 2019

We continued to this viewpoint. On the right of the photo is Megalo Chorio village.

Then, to the garbage dump of the island. It attracted surprisingly many birds. Including a spotted flycatcher; and two Cretzschmar’s buntings.

After arrival back in Megalo Chorio: a red admiral butterfly on a wall.

Architecture, cats, birds of Tilos, Greece

This 13 July 2016 video says about itself:

Views from around the Island of Tilos, an island in the Dodecanese just west of Rhodes. Includes views from Ilidi Rock apartments and the castle at Megalo Chorio.

This video is the sequel.

After 23 April 2019, 24 April on Tilos.

In the morning, a golden oriole sings in Megalo Chorio.

Again, to the Skafi footpath.

A kestrel flying.

Painted lady butterflies.

Megalo Chorio, 24 April 2019

Meanwhile, in Megalo Chorio village the buildings still stand …

Megalo Chorio, on 24 April 2019

Megalo Chorio, alley, 24 April 2019

… on both sides of narrow alleys …

Megalo Chorio, gate, 24 April 2019

… with sometimes a gate …

Megalo Chorio, church, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to churches …

Megalo Chorio, flowers, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to flowers …

Megalo Chorio, mosaic, 24 April 2019

… or to mosaics …

Megalo Chorio, cats, 24 April 2019

or to cats …

Megalo Chorio, tree, 24 April 2019

or to this tree.

Honey bees survive Notre Dame Paris fire

This 19 April 2019 video about Paris, France says about itself:

The bees that live on the roof of Notre Dame are alive and buzzing, having survived the devastating fire that ripped through the cathedral on Monday.

Beekeeper Nicolas Geant told CNN that he received a call from the Notre Dame spokesman saying there were bees flying in and out of the hives. “Which means they are still alive!” Geant said.

“Right after the fire I looked at the drone pictures and saw the hives weren’t burnt but there was no way of knowing if the bees had survived. Now I know there’s activity it’s a huge relief!”

Notre Dame has housed three beehives on the first floor on a roof over the sacristy, just beneath the rose window, since 2013. Each hive has about 60,000 bees. Geant said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they are located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread.

The beekeeper Nicolas Geant settled these three hives on the roof of the sacristy of Notre Dame

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The bee colony that lives on the roof of Notre Dame also survived the fire. There was still uncertainty about this, but the three hives, in which 180,000 honey bees live, were not affected by the fire. The hives were placed on the roof in 2013 as a contribution to biodiversity in the center of Paris. They stood about 30 meters below the tip of the roof that burned down.

According to the beekeeper of Notre Dame, bees can survive a fire by filling themselves with honey as soon as they detect a fire. Insects have no lungs and cannot choke because of smoke. European bees will never leave their hive and will protect their queen at all times, beekeeper Geant says.

Paris Notre Dame cathedral fire destruction

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

See first images inside Notre Dame Cathedral after fire

CNN’s Tom Foreman discusses historical artifacts inside Notre Dame Cathedral as firefighters continue to battle the flames.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris devastated by fire

16 April 2019

On Monday evening, an intense fire devastated Notre-Dame cathedral, the most frequently visited monument in Paris, with 14 million annual visitors. The fire that broke out at about 6:50 p.m. (local time) in the wooden frame of the roof of the cathedral brought down the spire approximately one hour later, and then totally destroyed the roof. A tall column of thick, yellowish smoke that poured out of the cathedral, consumed by the flames, cast a pall over the city.

The cathedral staff rapidly evacuated tourists who were inside, and the security forces evacuated nearby neighborhoods of Cité Island in Paris. When the flames spread inside the cathedral and reached the north tower, at about 9 p.m., Assistant Interior Minister Laurent Nunez issued a communiqué that it was “not guaranteed” that the structure of the cathedral would be saved. However, at about 11 p.m., firefighters announced that “The structure of Notre-Dame cathedral is saved and preserved overall.”

As 500 firefighters continued to battle the flames late into the night, one firefighter was injured and the heat inside the cathedral caused by molten lead from the collapsed roof remained intense.

At approximately 11 p.m., the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation of “involuntary destruction via fire”, seemingly ruling out the possibility that the fire was caused by arson. At the time of the fire’s outbreak, major work was being done on the roof, where large scaffolding had been set up. The possibility that an accidental fire was triggered by work being done at the site “currently has the attention of investigators, given the current state of the investigations”, said a judicial source close to the probes.

Millions of people in France and internationally are in shock, faced with the devastation of an edifice whose construction began in 1153 and lasted two centuries, and which now is part of the cultural heritage of all of humanity.

Thousands of people went to the neighborhoods of Paris near the cathedral on Monday evening. One woman spoke to BFM TV through her tears and said: “I am a witness to a disaster. I am not particularly religious, but this is a symbol of our beautiful city, which already is not in a very good state, so this makes me extremely sad.”

“It is really sad, the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life,” said Sam Ogden, a British tourist who had come to Paris to visit the cathedral.

Countless art works visited and photographed by hundreds of millions of people around the world have suffered damage that is yet to be determined. These include three rose windows made of stained glass dating to the 13th century, and three organs, including the famous great organ, with its five keyboards, 109 registers and nearly 8,000 pipes. It is unclear what impact the intense heat has had on the structural integrity of the stone of which the cathedral is built.

The sadness felt at the loss to humanity resulting from the fire inevitably recalls other tragedies, such as the plundering of the Iraqi national museum under the watch of NATO countries’ occupation troops after the illegal 2003 invasion, or the Brazilian National Museum fire last year. The Brazilian government’s austerity measures had deprived the museum in Rio of necessary fire protection. Firefighters arriving to fight the flames found themselves without ladders and with unusable fire hydrants.

Aerial view of the fire at Notre Dame

It is difficult to understand at this point how Notre-Dame cathedral could have found itself defenseless in the face of this type of fire.

Maybe the restoration work was done too fast and with too little concern for safety for financial reasons?

The vulnerability of French cathedral spires and roofs to fire has been well known for many centuries, with the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres having suffered major fires of this type in 1481 and 1506, respectively.

Notre-Dame was spared major fires not only during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also during the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, when Parisian workers attacked the structure as they rose up against the Church, and also during the two world wars of the 20th century.

Despite all the vast technological advances that humanity has made in the 21st century, it is in this century that the famous cathedral was ravaged by fire. Serious questions are posed, with budgets in France and across Europe entirely turned to austerity and tax cuts for the rich, as to whether the allocation of more money on the renovation of Notre-Dame and its fire security could have averted or at least contained a blaze that ended up devastating the entire building.

It was left to US President Donald Trump to tweet a suggestion to send “flying water tankers” used in forest fires to dump water onto the cathedral in a desperate attempt to fight the flames, a comment that quickly drew a retort from France’s General Directorate of Civil Security: “The weight of the water and the intensity of the release at low attitude could, in fact, make the structure of Notre-Dame fragile and cause collateral damage to nearby buildings.”

This 15 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump gives Notre Dame fire advice. See how officials responded.

Former FDNY Battalion Chief John LaFemina explains why President Trump’s firefighting suggestion of “flying water tankers” would not have worked in the battle against the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

The Alex Lantier article continues:

President Emmanuel Macron visited the Notre-Dame site, accompanied by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Earlier in the evening, Macron had postponed a planned speech in response to the demands of the “yellow vest” movement, which has carried out five months of protests against Macron and his policies of austerity and widening social inequality.

Statements of solidarity came from governments around the world. The German, British, Turkish, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments, as well as the Vatican and the city of London, all made statements indicating their sadness. Macron, for his part, gave a brief and perfunctory speech in front of the cathedral, pledging that it would be rebuilt.

It seems likely that the cathedral will now be closed for repairs for a number of years.

Conspiracy Theorists Blame Jews, Muslims For Notre Dame Fire: here.