Primetime DVD Review: “Nova: Saving Notre Dame”

DVD Review!

"Nova: Saving Notre Dame" DVD cover

“Nova: Saving Notre Dame” Review by Suzanne 2/10/21

I don’t watch the “Nova” series regularly, but when I do watch it, I always enjoy it and learn a lot. This is a very good episode about the Notre Dame fire in 2019 and how they’ve been repairing and rebuilding it. It’s very interesting because it uses art, engineering, architecture and more. Of course, all of these series are very educational, but they’re also fascinating.

I grew up Catholic, but above and beyond the religious aspects of Notre Dame is the fact that it’s a major historical building. The documentary does talk a bit about the historical aspect of the cathedral as well as what’s going on in the modern world. It’s only an hour long, so it won’t take much of your time. Check it out if you have an interest in France, Notre Dame, or art restoration.

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Below is a listing of the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray releases from PBS Distribution slated for February.Every purchase helps support public television for all.

  • NOVA: Saving Notre Dame – 2/16/21

Genre: Documentary
Run Time: 57 min. on 1 disc – DVD
SRP: $24.99

When the Notre Dame cathedral caught fire in April 2019, Paris came very close to losing over 800 years of history. Now engineers are in a different race against time: to rebuild the roof and secure the medieval structure.




Premieres Wednesday, November 25 at 9 p.m. ET/8C on PBS|@novapbs

(Boston, MA)On November 18, 2020 the PBS science series NOVA, a production of GBH Boston, will premiere SAVING NOTRE DAME, a one-hour special examining the challenges  of restoring  Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it took on extensive damage from a devastating fire in 2019. As the world watched in horror last year, the Gothic masterpiece became engulfed in a fiery inferno, and Paris came perilously close to losing an 850-year-old treasure. The film tells the story of the fire and the race to stabilize the structure and stave off a total collapse.  Watch the trailer here.

SAVING NOTRE DAME follows a team of architects, engineers, scientists, and master craftspeople, as they work to read the minds of the original builders and rediscover the lost history of the structure. Using new technologies, including an innovative 3D digital map of the complete structure, they race to preserve what remains while setting out to restore one of the world’s most precious landmarks.

The film explores the intricacies of Notre Dame’s architecture and the medieval craftsmanship that created the iconic structure. One year after a powerful fire ravaged its timber and lead roof, the structure is still perilously close to a collapse. The special gives viewers an inside look at the fire itself and the incredible effort to stabilize the teetering walls. Once they’re secured, a restoration project begins: Teams prepare to rebuild the oak roof and fallen spire and save the centuries-old stained glass, all while  preventing rain from pouring in through  gaping holes in the limestone vaulting—and working amid the toxic lead contaminating the site and 550 tons of melted scaffolding threatening to collapse at any moment. NOVA joins scientists as they determine their reconstruction plans and whether the key to a successful restoration lies within the structure of the cathedral itself.

“We are thrilled to be able to tell the inside story of the dramatic rescue  of Notre Dame,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer Chris Schmidt. “In the first days after the fire, no one was sure whether the huge bell towers, walls, or flying buttresses would remain standing. The exhaustive process of diagnosing the damage and embarking on the restoration of the great cathedral relies on new technologies and medieval craftsmanship alike.”

“It was a great privilege to gain such rare access to shoot inside the cathedral during this important recovery period,” said Director Joby Lubman. “To be able to spend so much time inside Notre Dame and witness this unprecedented effort was deeply moving and truly humbling.”

In the absence of firsthand information about the original construction of Notre Dame or the craftspeople who built it, these new studies of the cathedral’s materials and engineering provide a unique opportunity to unlock its secrets. To secure the iconic structure, experts began an unprecedented collaboration between architects and scientists to meticulously analyze the impact on centuries-old materials and to develop a restoration plan.

The film follows Chief Architects of France’s historic monuments Philippe Villeneuve and Rémi Fromont as they gather data and formulate a plan.  After securing the walls of the cathedral with giant timber frames and preventing a potential collapse, the experts are able to begin work inside to gain a complete picture of the damage and formulate a decontamination and restoration protocol.

The team faces unimaginable challenges: removing lead stains from precious stained glass windows, sourcing  limestone from the original quarries beneath Paris to match the properties of the original vault stone, and recreating the complex timber framework using medieval tools and techniques similar to those used in the original construction.

Navigating a perilous environment inside, Claudine Loisel, a glass scientist, focuses on restoring the cathedral’s most fragile wonder—its famed stained glass. While the glass masterpieces remain intact, they were subject to ‘thermal shock,’ forming micro-cracks in some panels. They were also showered with toxic lead dust emitted when the lead roof burned—further complicating an already complicated project. To remove the vaporized toxic metal without further damaging the glass, Loisel develops a decontamination plan that employs a precision vacuum cleaner, followed by painstaking application of distilled water using simple cotton balls to remove any residue. To guide them, the team invented a novel use of x-ray spectroscopy to determine the exact number of gentle wipes required  to lift the lead off the glass, without damaging precious paint.

High overhead the damage to the stone vault and roof present one of the greatest threats. Here the work is treacherous and the stakes are high—since the total collapse of the vault would likely cause the walls of the cathedral to give way as well. In order to stabilize and restore the vault, experts must identify limestone with identical properties as the centuries-old blocks already intricately locked  in place. Geologist Lise Leroux studies the stone to find its origin, leading her to the quarries deep beneath Paris, now commonly known as the Catacombs, where she is able to match micro-fossils found there with the samples from the vaulting stones in the cathedral. This discovery allows the team to properly source the limestone that will fill the holes in Notre Dame’s ceiling.

With the  timber framework of the roof destroyed by the fire, the team also faces the challenge of recreating the network of beams created by medieval carpenters. Timber scientist Catherine Lavier identifies markings on burned beams that enable her to use tree-ring analysis to decode the age and origin of the oaks used originally. A team of carpenters employing medieval tools and techniques to restore a French chateau in the countryside provides hope that the skills still exist that will make it possible to rebuild Notre Dame’s lost roofing in the original style. No original plans survive, but by a sheer stroke of luck, Rémi Fromont had already created a 3D scan of the complex roofing structure back in 2014, which promises now to provide the data they will need to bring it back exactly as it was before.

Mindful now of the fragility of the great monument, a parallel restoration effort is also underway—as Remi and others gather the data they need to create a groundbreaking 3D digital twin of Notre Dame to protect against ever again risking the loss of the secrets and memory of what some call “the heart of France”.

SAVING NOTRE DAME premieres Wednesday, November 25, 2020 at 9 p.m. ET/8C on PBS and will be available for streaming online and on the PBS video app.

SAVING NOTRE DAME is a NOVA Production by Windfall Films Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for GBH Boston in association with BBC. Director is Joby Lubman. Producer is Alessandra Bonomolo. Executive Producer is Carlo Massarella. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH Boston.

National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the NOVA Science Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers.

About NOVA

NOVA is the most popular primetime science series on American television, demystifying the scientific and technological concepts that shape and define our lives, our planet, and our universe. The PBS series is also one of the most widely distributed science programs around the world, and is a multimedia, multiplatform brand reaching more than 55 million Americans every year on TV and online. NOVA’s important and inspiring stories of human ingenuity, exploration, and the quest for knowledge are regularly recognized with the industry’s most prestigious awards. As part of its mission to make the scientific enterprise accessible to all, NOVA is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all its work, from the production process to the range of stories we tell and voices we feature. In addition, science educators across the country rely on NOVA for resources used in the classroom as well as in museums, libraries, and after-school programs. NOVA is a production of GBH Boston; more information can be found at, or by following NOVA on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

About PBS

PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 100 million people through television and nearly 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a new 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About GBH

GBH is the leading multi platform creator for public media in America. As the largest producer of content for PBS and partner to NPR and PRX, GBH delivers compelling experiences, stories and information to audiences wherever they are. GBH produces digital and broadcast programming that engages, illuminates and inspires, through drama and science, history, arts, culture and journalism. It is the creator of such signature programs as MASTERPIECE, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FRONTLINE, NOVA, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, Arthur and Molly of Denali, as well as WORLD Channel and a catalog of streaming series, podcasts and on-demand video. With studios and a newsroom headquartered in Boston, GBH reaches across New England with GBH 89.7, Boston’s Local NPR®; CRB Classical 99.5; and CAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® station. Dedicated to making media accessible to and inclusive of our diverse culture, GBH is a pioneer in delivering media to those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired. GBH creates curriculum-based digital content for educators nationwide with PBS LearningMedia and has been recognized with hundreds of the nation’s premier broadcast, digital and journalism awards. Find more information at

Proofread and Edited by Brenda

The opinions in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TVMEG.COM or its other volunteers.

"Nova: Saving Notre Dame" DVD cover

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