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How technology saved Notre Dame and will help it rebuild

The massive fire that devastated Notre Dame de Paris captured the attention of the entire world. As flames consumed the building, onlookers could do little but watch as the nearly 850-year-old cathedral’s roof and spire collapsed.

As firefighters faced the disaster, Notre Dame’s survival depended on the careful application of cutting-edge equipment. Advanced robotics and water delivery systems helped preserve the interior of the church while protecting firefighters from dangerous conditions inside.

Despite incredible damage to centuries of French history, the overall structure of the church was saved thanks to the efforts of brave French firefighters and their high-tech equipment. What’s more, technology used in a French video game might hold the key to rebuilding Notre Dame to its former glory.

Enter Colossus

To assist with fighting the blaze, the Parisian Fire Department delivered an 1,100-pound emergency robot to the steps of Notre Dame. This robot, named Colossus, is a land-based drone designed to enter burning areas deemed too dangerous for human firefighters.

Built to be fire and waterproof, Colossus is capable of carrying heavy fire hoses, emergency equipment, and potentially stranded victims. It features massive, tank-like tires that nimbly carry the robot over debris and obstacles — even staircases!

Most importantly, the remote-controlled drone features a damage-proof HD camera on the front of the chassis that allows firefighters to survey devastated areas without needing to enter.


While on the scene, Colossus entered Notre Dame’s main chapel to protect firefighters from exposure to the collapsing roof. It was able to put out burning remains of the spire with specially directed jets of water controlled by firefighters outside the cathedral. Before Colossus went in, authorities had estimated that Notre Dame was around 30 minutes away from total destruction.

Since Colossus was able to handle the interior, firefighters focused on the roof and exterior where the majority of flames could be found. Hours later, Parisian officials declared Notre Dame had been saved, but would need massive renovation efforts to completely restore.

Remodeling with video game specs

In the aftermath of the fire, a torrent of donations has flooded Paris to help with the rebuilding effort. Hundreds of millions of euros are now going towards the project, with President Emmanuel Macron pledging to rebuild the cathedral within the next 5 years.

Reconstructing such an old piece of architecture presents several unique challenges, however. The cathedral has been rebuilt multiple times after previous disasters, and the original blueprints are likely incomplete or lost. In order to fully replicate Notre Dame as it was, detailed knowledge about its pre-fire condition is needed by engineers.

This is where video game tech comes in. After being highlighted by Romanian cultural center director on Twitter, fans of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise are swarming social media with requests for the French government. They want government officials to contact Ubisoft about its highly intricate 3D models of Notre Dame, as a reference for the building project.

Ubisoft, a French game design studio, recreated the iconic church in painstaking detail for its bestselling game “Assassin’s Creed Unity.” The game is set during the French Revolution and features a to-scale model of the cathedral based on historical documents and on-site photos.

Using this model would allow architects to follow the same iconic designs while rebuilding the church — a feat that would please anyone concerned with the preservation of history.

As unexpected as it might be, “Assassin’s Creed Unity” might be one of the first games to enter history books for its contribution to architecture, religion, and the people of Paris.

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