Home/Stay Informed/All Diocesan Articles

All Diocesan Articles

 

 

A ‘True Living Medieval Experience’

Posted on July 27, 2021 in: News

A ‘True Living Medieval Experience’

Catholic University students replicate Notre Dame cathedral architecture 

Washington D.C. (CNA) - Students and professors at the Catholic University of America (CUA) are building a full-scale truss replicating that which was destroyed in a 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

On the lawn in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., students and professors at the university are working with the architecture non-profit Handhouse Studio to create a wooden truss, a roofing framework. The truss has the same specifications as one of the hundreds of trusses destroyed in the devastating April 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The making of this in front of the Basilica is magic.” said Tonya Ohnstad, visiting professor at the university’s school of architecture and a leader in construction effort, to CNA in a July 27 phone interview. 

The truss, which will be approximately 45 feet wide and 35 feet tall when finished, is being constructed in partnership with Handhouse Studio during a 10-day workshop. Ohnstad compared the rebuilding of the truss to a “true living medieval experience.” 

The workshop began on Monday morning when 30 White Oak trees donated from neighboring Virginia forests arrived at the university campus, along with a crane. Traditional timber framers, carpenters, faculty, students, and alumni have been participating in the project, using the methods and materials of the original medieval builders of Notre Dame.

“It's so incredible,” Ohnstad said, “I wish everyone could come and see the way they would have seen the construction of these important buildings with people working, all of the embodied energy of the humans, and everything people are pouring into these logs that would then be part of the church.”

An architecture graduate student involved in the effort, Sam Merklein, told CNA that his class contributed research into different joints, sketches, and dimensions of the truss; the students worked in collaboration with the Notre Dame architects in France.

“It's amazing to see all the drawings that detail all the different components of the building,” Merklein said, “but then also just to be able to say that we're helping to reconstruct a cathedral that is hundreds of years old and has had so much work put into it throughout the century is amazing.”

The university’s architecture department is teaching a related course on the history and reconstruction of the cathedral, which includes a public lecture series featuring experts from many fields.

Ohnstad’s architecture class on the cathedral, which began at the end of June, prepared for four weeks before the timber arrived on campus. She told CNA her team is rebuilding the sixth truss out of the hundreds of trusses that held up the cathedral. 

When asked if the truss will be used in the actual rebuilding of the cathedral, Ohnstad told CNA it has not been decided yet. She called the truss building a “gesture of global solidarity” to show the French that “we're in this with them, we want to help them reconstruct it, and that we hope that they will take a truss from us and put it in Notre Dame.” 

Ohnstad told CNA that she is collaborating with the group Charpentiers sans Frontières (“Carpenters Without Border”). As the team at CUA could have slightly different measurements and estimates than the team in France, the truss could be ruled out from being used in the Cathedral for that reason. 

However, when finished, the truss will be raised in front of the basilica for display on August 3 at 5:30 p.m. At the event, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will come to bless the structure. 

The truss will then be raised for display on the National Mall on August 5, in partnership with the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center and with the support of Preservation Maryland. 

The National Building Museum also found interest in the truss, and will be exhibiting the structure within its “Great Hall” for sight seeing from August 6 to September 16.

“I think it's really amazing that across the Atlantic we're able to help out with the cathedral,” Merklein said, “and whether or not the timber framers here are going to send over a truss into the cathedral, or if it's just going to be a symbolic effort and gesture, I think it’s a really great experience and something I'm proud to work on.”

For More Info about the School of Architecture Click Here

For More on the Truss Project Click Here

 

Bookmark and Share  

Our Advertisers Support Our Ministries

Please Support Our Advertisers

Most Viewed Articles of the Last 30 Days

Twenty Years on from 9/11, How a NYC Firefighter Became a Catholic Priest
It’s been 20 years since the attacks of September 11, the most devastating terrorist attack in recorded history. If you were old enough, it’s likely you remember exactly where you were when you first learned of the attacks. Maybe you watched them, in real time, on the news. Maybe you learned about them from your parents when they picked you up from school that day. Tom Colucci was a lieutenant in the NYC Fire Department, and one of the first responders that fateful day. This week on CNA Newsroom, Tom shares his memories of September 11th. He says the witness ...

Read More

Church-Declared Holy Legion of Mary Members on Their Way to Sainthood
FRANK DUFF, Servant of God, born in Dublin, Ireland June 7, 1889 the eldest of seven children. In 1916 at the age of 27 he published his first pamphlet, “Can We Be Saints?” In it he expressed one of the strongest convictions of his life, namely, that all without exception are called to be saints and that through our Catholic Faith we have available all the means necessary to attain this. In 1917 he came to know the Treatise of St. Louis Marie de Montfort on the “True Devotion of Jesus through Mary,” a work which changed his life completely. On Sept. ...

Read More

Annual Catholic Appeal

 
Signup for Weekly Newsletter


    Recently Added Galleries
    Click to view album: Palm Sunday
    Click to view album: Blessing of the Fleet
    Click to view album: Mass of Ordination for Father Michael Bovino
    Click to view album: Rite of Election 2020
    Latest Articles
    Called to Remember to 'Work Like Christ' - Sept. 22 Hope and Faith Video
    TRASHED! - Virtual Series Explores Human Life, the Earth as Our Home
    St. Joseph Church in Norwich to Exhibit Parish History
    40 Days for Life - Peaceful Prayer and Witness for Life
    Bishop's Column: Confident in Our Faith
    May God Bless and Protect Our Children
    ACA Thankful for Our Family of Faith

    Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich
    201 Broadway
    Norwich, CT 06360-4328
    Phone: 860-887-9294