Paris is one of the world’s most visited capital cities. The city takes pride in its iconic monuments including the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral among many other famous landmarks. The Notre Dame cathedral is consecrated to the Virgin Mary and is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The 850 year-old building was built in the 12th and 13th century and it receives almost 13 million visitors each year. It is still a functioning catholic church and the site of many important religious and ceremonial events.
Unfortunately, a massive fire engulfed the iconic landmark on Monday April 15th. The fire broke out during the time when Catholics were celebrating Holy week. The fire began at around 18:30 (16:30 GMT) and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.
The building’s spire and roof collapsed but the firefighters worked to prevent the bell towers from collapsing. The fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said that the main structure including the two bell towers were “saved and preserved” from total destruction. . The cause of the fire is not yet clear but officials said that it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone.
The President of France Emmanuel Macron called it a “terrible tragedy” and vowed to launch an International fundraising scheme to re-build the Cathedral. The rebuilding of the Cathedral is set to happen within five years just in time for the Olympics that will take place in Paris in 2024.
While visiting the scene, the president said the Cathedral was a building “for all French people,” including those who had never been there. “We’ll rebuild Notre Dame together,” he said as he praised the “extreme courage” and “professionalism” of the fire fighters.
Thousands of people gathered in the streets on that fateful day around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence, some were weeping while others sang hymns and said prayers.
Some of the treasures inside Notre Dame were reported saved although it is not clear on what was saved and what was lost. According to Notre Dame’s top administrative cleric, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, a centuries-old crown of thorns made from reeds and gold, and the tunic worn by saint Louis, a 13th century king of France, were safely retrieved.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has suggested an international competition for designs for the new spire, to replace the 19th century design by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc which collapsed during the fire.
The cost for rebuilding is going to be extremely enormous, but hundreds of millions have already been pledged by individuals and businesses from all over the world. In the meantime, plans are in motion to build a temporary wooden cathedral in the square to continue Catholic services on the grounds. Architects working on preserving on the cathedral have made efforts to cover it before the rains that have been forecast cause further damage.