Each year, over 13 million pilgrims come to experience the masterpiece of Gothic architecture that has stood as a cultural icon, a symbol of the Catholic Faith, for nearly a millennia.

On Monday, the world watched in horror as flames engulfed the Notre-Dame Cathedral’s roof, intricate woodwork known as “the forest” reduced to nothing but ash.

The cornerstone of the Notre-Dame was laid in 1163 in the presence of King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III. As Gothic style called for high vaulted ceilings, construction began by sourcing tall, sturdy oaks from nearby forests. To reach Gothic heights, the trees for the Notre-Dame would have sprouted in the eighth or ninth centuries and been nearly 400 years old by the time they were cut.

The timber was used to construct what is known affectionately by historians as “the forest,” the hulking lattice of woodwork that formed the roof and frame of the Notre-Dame. Some 1,300 oak trees from over 50 acres of forest were felled in its construction. Each beam supporting the 100+ yards of roof came from an individual tree.

Sketch of the original wooden spire of the Notre-Dame.

Tragically, the forest was consumed in the flames of the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame. In its wake, the French timber industry has promised 100 year old oaks from the forests of Normandy for its reconstruction.

However, that may not be enough. Bertrand de Feydeau, Vice President of the French historical preservation organization Fondation du Patrimoin, said the roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was in the 13th century. They will have to use “new technologies” instead to rebuild the roof.

“We don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

Notre Dame is not the only building in need of repair. Thousands of people everyday go without safe shelter – a simple necessity we take for granted in today’s world. You can make a difference and impact, helping to provide safe shelter and critical housing for those who need it most through a charitable donation with MISSIO!

Launched by Pope Francis himself, MISSIO is a new and innovative Catholic crowd-funding platform that allows you to directly provide aid and assistance to the poorest areas around the world.

With MISSIO, you can directly support the works of Catholic missionaries in the poorest and most desperate areas of the world. You can help religious sisters in Cameroon provide a safe space for vulnerable men, women, and children that live on the streets, provide a roof for the only Catholic boarding school in Tororo, Uganda, and help a poor community in Pakistan complete their community-built church with a roof. You can also send general support for the Pope’s missions around the world.

Choose a mission of Pope Francis knowing that 100% of your donation will go directly to that cause. Share the mission on social media so others can support the projects also.

MISSIO is powered by The Pontifical Mission Societies, the Catholic Church’s official support organization for overseas missions since 1822, providing for a global network of people who are making a difference for communities in need around the globe.

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