Notre Dame Cathedral Is Burning: Here Are Other Famous European Landmarks Destroyed By Fire


Paris’ famed Notre Dame cathedral caught fire on April 15, taking down part of the roof and one spire of the 800-year-old church and threatening the very existence of the European landmark. Unfortunately, other European landmarks, many of which survived not one but two world wars (and the resultant bombing raids), have been done in by fire.

Here is a partial list of European landmarks that have been destroyed, wholly or partially, by fire.

Switzerland’s Kapellbrücke (“Chapel Bridge”)

For roughly 700 years, the ancient wooden Kapellbrücke has allowed visitors to cross over the Reuss river from one side of Lucerne to the next. However, much of that bridge’s original structure was destroyed in a fire on the night of August 18, 1993, devastating the city’s populace. In addition to the wooden planks that made up the bridge, the fire also destroyed dozens of paintings that lined its trusses; only a small handful were able to be restored.

As Switzerland historical archive SwissInfo reports, the cause of the fire has never been determined, although it is believed to have started from a boat underneath the structure.

Today, a wooden bridge still crosses the river, but most of the wooden planks date from the 1993/1994 restoration of the centuries-old damaged bridge.

switzerland's chapel bridge was destroyed by fire in 1993
Featured image credit: Simon KoopmannWikimedia Commons(CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Multiple Norwegian Churches

For a period of time in the early 1990s, fans of Norway’s “Black Metal” scene extended their music’s themes of destruction and anarchy into lives of criminal mischief, in the process of destroying dozens of Christian churches through arson or bombing. Some of those were the famed “stave churches” of Norway, centuries-old wooden structures built as Christianity made its way across Scandinavia.

One such church was the Fantoft Stave Church, an image of which appears below.

the fantoft stave church in norway before it was destroyed by fire
Featured image credit: Micha L. RieserWikimedia Commons

England’s Clandon Park House

Largely completed by 1781, for three centuries the house stood among England’s stately manor houses. Unfortunately, on the afternoon of April 29, 2015, a fire started in the house’s basement, likely caused by faulty wiring, and soon spread across most of the structure.

Hundreds of priceless paintings, pieces of furniture, and other artifacts were destroyed; many more were saved. Unfortunately, the fire destroyed most of the interior of the home, leaving it a “shell,” as described at the time.

Since the fire, the building has been renovated, piecemeal, with a total restoration planned for whenever there’s enough money.

England's clandon house was destroyed by fire in 2015
Featured image credit: Colin SmithWikimedia Commons(CC BY 2.0 )

Other Endangered Structures

Several other European structures are at risk of being destroyed in one way or another, due to neglect, encroaching development, or other reasons.

For example, as Europa Nostra reports, several 16th- and 17th-century Christian churches in parts of Albania are falling into disrepair, due in no small part to the country’s declining Christian population (and less money being put into their upkeep). A single lightning strike or thrown cigarette butt could doom any of the structures to be destroyed by fire. Similarly endangered is a Turkish orphanage, built almost entirely of wood, dating to 1899, which had already been severely damaged by fire in 1980.