A strong fire has started in the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one of France’s symbols, on Monday evening. The cause of the fire is not clear, but officials suspect that it might be related to the revamping works that the cathedral was currently undergoing. One of the towers and the roof collapsed, but the interior was not so affected. Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, quoted by Le Monde said that there is a huge hole in the vault, where the tower has collapsed over the aisle, however, the altar and the cross are in one piece.
The tragedy occurred right on the World Day of Art, with French and world historians saying that we are witnessing the collapse “of the most visited historical monument in the world”, a Gothic monument watching over the past 850 years.
The firefighters have managed to put out the fire that started around 7 p.m. after eight hours of exhausting fight with the flame. A fireman was seriously injured. The workers involved in the rehabilitation works have been heard all night long.
A pair of bell towers immortalized in Victor Hugo’s tale “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” survived, along with the cathedral’s elaborate stonework facade. Officials said invaluable artifacts were saved, including the Crown of Thorns, believed to be a relic of the passion of Christ.
French President Emmanuel Macron who, faced with the Yellow Vests social crisis, was supposed to present his reform plan, has cancelled his speech and arrived on the scene, lamenting the destruction of an awe-inspiring building and wanting to see if there are victims or how much can be saved.
Macron pledged to rebuild, starting with the launch of an international fundraising campaign. “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations,” he said. “This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel.“
Shortly after the fire, France’s luxury billionaire pledged EUR 300 million for the reconstruction of the cathedral, Bloomberg reports.
French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering group that owns the Gucci brand, has announced a EUR 100 M donation to reconstruct the cathedral.
Their rivals, the Arnault family, also came out few minutes later announcing they will give EUR 200 M and will also provide the expertise and the design and architectural resources they have through their luxury group LVMH, comprising such brands as Louis Vuitton and Moet.
The Vatican said the Holy See lamented the devastation of a “symbol of Christianity” in France and beyond. The fire, just days before Easter, was met with horror by Parisians and tourists. As firefighters battled the blaze, Parisians gathered outside the church Monday night, raising their voices in prayer.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has also reacted on Twitter, calling Notre Dame “a historical symbol of the European culture” and saying that Romania sympathetic to France in these moments and that it stands beside France.
An iconic monument
Notre Dame’s foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, and the cathedral was completed in the 13th century. Today, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, Notre Dame is considered a feat of architecture as well as a major religious and cultural symbol of France.
Located in Île de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the city, the cathedral is one of Paris’ most popular attractions, luring around 13 million visitors a year.
Even as it fell into disrepair over the centuries, it was the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor in 1804. The central spire was vuilt in the 19th century amid a broad restoration effort, partly buoyed by the success of “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in 1831.
In addition to the Crown of Thorns, the cathedral also houses the grand organ, one of the world’s most famous musical instruments, and numerous artworks.