I often encounter claims that this or that stone temple or fortress was "burned down" sometime in the past. How this could happen? One example (of many) is the claim that Church of St. Mary of Justinian in Jerusalem was "burned down" by Persians in 614.

Really, my understanding is that to demolish a stone structure like this one has invest much more efforts than just "burning down".

  • 8
    Notre Dame cathedral was a stone structure. Its roof was not. Nor its furniture and internal furnishings. Besides, a fortress could also store food, fodder, powder. Lots of stuff to burn.
    – Luiz
    Jan 18, 2022 at 15:45
  • @Luiz yes, but how such burning down can demolish a stone building?
    – Anixx
    Jan 18, 2022 at 15:48
  • 10
    Internal floors and ceilings are often wooden beam construction , and offer structural support to the outer walls as well. 'Burned out' might still be a better term. Once the wood is gone external forces against the outer walls have no resistance-nothing is pushing back. More of an engineering question than History, perhaps?
    – justCal
    Jan 18, 2022 at 15:50
  • 2
    What has your preliminary research shown? does Quora or insurance or reddit or chabad answer? Why not?
    – MCW
    Jan 18, 2022 at 15:58
  • 4
    Start your research with the Windsor Castle fire and the castle of Krasznahorka. Finally, read this excellent article.
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 18, 2022 at 16:18

1 Answer 1


A purely stone structure indeed cannot be consumed by fire (except by a nuclear explosion or a volcano). However, there are precious few purely stone structures, especially ancient ones.

An arch is a relatively complex design (and it exerts outward forces requiring buttresses), thus very often wood beams were used as structural elements to supplement (or avoid) them (especially for roofs - a critical structural element). When the beams are destroyed by fire, the building often collapses, thus earning a description of a "stone building destroyed by fire".

Most buildings are not empty - they contain combustible materials (wooden furniture, cloth tapestries, firewood, grain, oil &c) that burn well. Uneven heating may make stones and mortar crumble, resulting in a building collapse (this is why one uses a clay-based mortar instead of the usual concrete-based one for building brick stoves).

See also

PS. Consider the 9/11 attacks: a steel beam structure collapsed when the fireproofing was blown off by the initial impact of the planes and then jet fuel fire weakened the steel. One can reasonably describe the event as "steel building destroyed by fire" - even though steel does not burn or melt under the conditions created by the event.

  • some stone i think can be at least weakened by fire and also structured are put together often with organic material.
    – releseabe
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:19

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