The historic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, with centuries-old historical treasures such as some of the oldest stained-glass windows in the world, burned to the ground in a large fire on Monday — ultimately collapsing portions of the spire, bringing additional turmoil to Paris following months of protests by so-called “Yellow vest” protesters.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Andre Finot, the spokesperson for the Notre Dame cathedral told reporters Monday evening.
Mr. Finot added that the cause of the fire is currently unknown, however, early French media reports quoted fire officials, who said that the blaze could be “potentially linked” to a costly renovation on the Church’s spire.
First responders tried to salvage top-notch artwork in the cathedral, officials said Monday.
The fire started around 6:30 p.m. local time — causing the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to cancel a planned address about the “Yellow Vest” protests throughout France–- which has caused widespread damage and violent riots throughout the country.
“It is like losing a member of one’s own family,” Pierre Guillaume, a Paris resident, told The New York Times. “For me, there are so many memories tied up in it.” The 12th-century cathedral is one of the most infamous religious attraction throughout the world, along the Seine river.
“It’s been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris,” Camille Pascal, a French historian, told BFM. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”
“We can be only horrified by what we see,” he added.
“This is just horrible,” Mohamed Megdoul, a local film producer told The Times. “A thousand years of history which is being wiped away.”
“This belonged to the whole world, and now it is disappearing,” he continued.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” President Donald Trump posted on Twitter, responding to the disaster. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
The Cathedral was quickly evacuated shortly after the blaze began — resulting in no casualties thus far.
French law enforcement officials began, minutes later, blowing whistles, directing residents, visitors, and tourists and move away from the blaze, reports said.
“A terrible fire is underway at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, said on Twitter. “I invite everyone to respect the security perimeter.”
“There’s a history of churches and synagogues and other houses of worship falling victim to construction fires,” Glenn Corbett, a Professor of Fire Science at John Jay College, which is located in New York, told The Times.
French President Emanuel Macron said on Twitter that he is “sad tonight to see this part of us burn.” Speaking in a televised address to the nation, said he wants the Notre Dame Cathedral to be rebuilt in five years. “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautiful and I want that to be done in the next five years,” he said.
He continued: “Throughout our history, we have built towns, ports, churches. Many have been burnt due to revolutions, wars, due to mankind’s mistakes. Each time we have rebuilt them.
“The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched,” Macron said.
The full restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral will take between “10 to 15 years,” according to Frédéric Létoffé, the head of the group of companies for the Restoration of Historic Monuments, as was reported by CNN.
Létoffé, speaking at a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, said the site will need to be secured before any restoration work can take place.
“This will require a lot of work since, beyond shoring and reinforcement, it will be necessary to build a scaffolding with an umbrella to be able to cover the entire roof that went missing, to ensure protection against weathering” he said.
The exact cause of the blaze wasn’t known, but French media quoted the fire brigade as saying it was “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. The Paris Prosecutor’s office, which was investigating, said it was treating it as an accident.
Notre Dame, a survivor of wars and revolutions, has stood for centuries as not merely the greatest of the Gothic cathedrals and a towering jewel of Western architecture.
And so it was that across the globe Monday, a stunned and helpless art world wept alongside the people of France as a massive fire ravaged the beloved cathedral, according to an AP report.
Construction on Notre Dame — French for “Our Lady” — began in the 12th century and continued for nearly 200 years. It sustained damage and fell into neglect during the French Revolution, but received renewed attention following the 1831 publication of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” This led to two decades of restorations, including the cathedral’s famous flying buttresses and a reconstructed spire, according to the AP report.
While most kings were crowned elsewhere, Napoleon Bonaparte made sure he was crowned there in 1804, and married there in 1810.
Aside from the structure, art experts were concerned about the fate of countless priceless artworks and artifacts inside, including relics like the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying for Notre Dame, which he called “second maybe to St. Peter’s Basilica, (in) … the ability of a church to lift our minds and hearts back to the Lord.”
“For the French, my God, for the world, Notre Dame Cathedral represents what’s most notable, what’s most uplifting, what’s most inspirational about the human project,” he said.
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