The spire which collapsed in the Notre-Dame fire was added during an overhaul in the mid-19th century Photo: AFP
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Fire ravages Notre Dame cathedral in Paris; spire collapses

45 Comments
By Clare Byrne and Joseph Schmid

A colossal fire swept through the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday, causing a spire to collapse and raising fears over the future of the nearly millennium old building and its precious artworks.

The fire, which began in the early evening, sent flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the Paris sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in sheer horror.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work to help the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece better deal with the tests of time.

The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the cathedral, visited by millions of people a year.

Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFM TV the spire "collapsed inwards" and that workers were scrambling "to save all the artworks that can be saved."

A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze. "Everything is burning," the spokesman for Notre Dame, Andre Finot, told AFP.

The fire service said the blaze could be "potentially linked" to ongoing renovations.

"We will rebuild Notre Dame together", an emotional French President Emmanuel Macron vowed on Monday evening as he visited the famed cathedral.

With tears in his eyes, Macron said that "the worst has been avoided" thanks to the work of firefighters who battled for hours to save the Gothic cathedral's two towers and facade. He vowed to draw on "the best talent" to rebuild what had been destroyed.

"What happened tonight in Paris and at Notre Dame Cathedral is a terrible tragedy," Macron said. "The worst was avoided even if the battle has not been completely won yet and the next few hours will be difficult."

The 41-year-old president described the 850-year-old monument at the heart of Paris as "the epicenter of our life" and the cathedral of "all the French", whether religious or not.

He said that "starting tomorrow," he would launch an international appeal for the restoration of the beloved church.

"And we will rebuild Notre Dame because it is what the French expect," he said, flanked by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit.

In a tweet he expressed the "emotion of a whole nation" on seeing Notre Dame ablaze. "Like all my compatriots I am sad to see a part of us burn this evening" he said, expressing solidarity with "all Catholics and all French people."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre Dame cathedral a "symbol of European culture" as the blaze raged.

Hidalgo in a tweet described it as a "terrible fire".

Vast clouds of gray-white smoke billowed round the cathedral as yellow flames still licked the top of the building. There was no immediate indication of any casualties in the blaze.

"The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon thrown up around the site.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire, which comes as French Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, broke out at around 5:50 p.m. Fire trucks could be seen speeding through Paris towards the scene on the Ile de la Cite -- an island in the Seine at the heart of Paris.

The Paris police department in a tweet called on residents to avoid the area and to "make way for rescue vehicles".

U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet said: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"

Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, some filming the images with their smartphones, an AFP reporter said.

The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which last week saw statues lifted from the top of the cathedral.

Built between the years 1163 and 1345, Notre Dame is one of the most popular tourist sites in Paris, drawing around 13 million people every year.

The spire, like the rest of the gothic edifice, had been undergoing the 11-million-euro ($12.4-million) overhaul financed by the French state to repair damage inflicted by time, pollution and the weather.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


45 Comments
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Such a monument belongs not just to France, but to the entire world. This is a horrible cultural loss.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

Awwwwww. Crap.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

OMG, what a loss to the world!

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Twelve churches have been vandalized in France in the past week.

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

Truly tragic!

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Its just a building! It can alway be rebuilt, just like the castles in Osaka and Nagoya...

-21 ( +5 / -26 )

From a purely historical and cultural perspective, this is heartbreaking and tragic.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

It would be a horrible irony if the fire were something to do with the renovation work.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This is a real tragedy. Really should be the lead story today - there are few buildings like it in the world.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

It is not just a Catholic loss, it a civilizational loss. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world. It represents a distinct period in history: religious, architectural, philosophical, and cultural. Hundreds of years before explorers set out to discover the Americas, the Notre Dame Cathedral stood. Hundreds of years to create, a few hours to destroy.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Its just a building! It can alway be rebuilt, just like the castles in Osaka and Nagoya...

More than just a building and it means far more to the French than Osaka and Nagoya castles mean to the Japanese. Japanese buildings burnt down frequently and get rebuilt. This one has stood in its current form for 850 years (actually the two towers were extended more recently). This one building means more to the french than any other.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Iconic building that was always just there. Great loss of art items too. Work of the devil some would say.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

What a heartbreaking tragedy!!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Its just a building! It can alway be rebuilt, just like the castles in Osaka and Nagoya...

Or the recently restored Amagasaki Castle!!*

Arson.Surprised ISIS hasn't claimed responsibility.*
-6 ( +3 / -9 )

That's a terrible picture. I'm not from Paris, but as a French guy, it's heartbreaking to see such a landmark of my country like this. The building can be rebuilt, but the artwork inside is irreplaceable.

U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet said: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"

And of course, Einstein over there has to give his expert opinion on putting out fires. Can't act like a real human being for even one tweet.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

It is not just a Catholic loss, it a civilizational loss. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world

I saw it on my first trip abroad when I was 11. This beautiful building has stood for over 800 years.

This is really sad.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

This is the ending of a gothic novel.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have a hard time believing that anyone who posts here would be so crass as to iterate that it's no big deal.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Such a shame. A link to the past damaged.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It took hundreds of years to build, generations of skilled craftsmen. It pioneered many new skills. It's much more than a church, and in fact had become more of an icon. To rebuild will take 100 years if not more, as the cathedral in Spain has shown us the beauty is in the detail and craftsmanship, the resolve of a population to creat something unique and beautiful, on a scale that was truly awesome. It is a loss that will scare the landscape of Paris well after I'm gone.

water bombers would have flattened everything and surrounding structures. Water bombers ain't laser guided El Presedento.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet said: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"

France’s civil security agency answered :

Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

You might not be interested or even like Notre Dame but you can't deny that we lost a huge piece of history . If its due to the renovation heads will roll, if it's arson I hope they catch the perp.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

A very sad day. I've visited Paris three times and was planning to return this fall. Attending mass at Notre Dame cathedral is a memorable experience. I probably will still stop at the church and shed a tear.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

There's what you might call a Premier League of important buildings worldwide - for example the Taj Mahal, Gaudi's Sagra Familia in Barcelona, the Sydney Opera House - and Notre Dame de Paris was (and still will be) one of them. We can be grateful the damage wasn't even worse than it was.

Disappointing to read such a lack of cultural and historical awareness in a couple of people posting today. How can anyone dismiss the importance of such buildings as Notre Dame Cathedral and what these buildings mean to the world in general, not just to the countries they're located in?

12 ( +12 / -0 )

A dark day for not just the Western and Catholic worlds, but the whole world.

Let us pray that it was not arson.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

News reports are now coming out, saying that despite the size and intensity of the fire, the main interior of the building has largely withstood it.

So I guess the medieval Catholics who built the cathedral 800 years ago really weren't so "backward" or "anti-science" after all!

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Awful news. Sounds like arson as well.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I’m actually watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I type.

Its a tragerty. I carved my initials on the roof about 30 years ago and was planning to see if they are still there next time I’m in Paris.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Years ago, I stood in front of the splendid landmark very early on a quiet morning without any tourists and it was as if I had traveled back in time-so sad...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.

Thank goodness the French have left it up to the pro's who know their work and not some idiot across the ocean, who once again, like a child, feels the need to throw his unwanted and ignorant advice into the it!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It may not even be possible to restore or rebuild depending on the state of whatever structure remains after the fire and whether strong enough to take new building works. Will take months and even years for a survey to be made. I wonder if there are actual plans of what was there?

If restoration becomes possible it will take many decades even more than a century. Liverpool cathedral was started in 1904 and officially opened in 1978. Barcelona cathedral, Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família was started in 1832 and not expected to be finished until 2032, 200 years.

I guess God is patient.

Back in the 70's lived in the Rue Saint-Jacques for a year and saw a view of Notre Dame most days, it was just there along with the Lourve. The lost of the Louvre and all it's treasures, including the Mona Lisa would be a greater loss. Hope they review their fire precautions.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have been twice. Of course, the front of Notre Dame is where most of the tourists gather to take pictures then move on. Going inside and walking around to the back where they have a small park is where it is really interesting. I swear the front of the church was sunny but the back of the church was dark and cloudy with crows cawing mixed with gargoyles looking straight at me. It was really really creepy but unforgettable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Viewing Notre Dame was probably on par with the Sistine Chapel, except I only visited Notre Dame once over a whole year and the Sistine Chapel many times.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Do we still poses the skills needed on such a scale? Can any economy afford such a commitment of cash, manpower? It just goes to show how humbling the loss of such an icon is. As its rebuilding will take with all modern technology 100, 200 years. Spain has endured wars, financial hardship yet have never lost focus on Sagrada Familia. As Zichi said its expected to take 200 years with technology. Hats off to Spain. And it's mind blowingly beautiful inside, if you have never been there or Notre Dame put one the other now on your bucket list. Notre Dame was built with out modern technology. It's an amazing structure. It was human will that created it, human will that will rebuild it. I hope. Or replace it with a huge concrete box, with mirrored Windows and elevator music on a loop. I feel privileged to have been there.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Very sorry to hear that. I hope it can be authentically restored with original building methods.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The technological advance that this building ushered in as it was built over a 200 year span were ground breaking. Truly hope the north rose window has survived, it is the only one left that is original, finished in 1260!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The facade is still there, and France needs something to reunite the nation, so I am confident it will be rebuilt.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

North Rose window probably survived but the great heat will have effected the strength of the lead holding the glass pieces.

The restoration could be paid for by the Church of Roma.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Notre Dame is a historic and cultural icon, a beautiful building, a treasure trove of irreplaceable artwork, an architectural masterpiece. Its loss (or even partial loss - it appears that the stone structure will survive) is certainly a great loss and a tragedy.

I get that.

And I agree with every word.

But I also to some extent agree with Vernon Watts - it's just a building.

There have so far been no reports of lives being lost; a very bright silver lining to an admittedly very dark and heartbreaking cloud.

It would be laughable to call (for example) the Grenville Tower block of flats that burned down two years ago any kind of cultural or historic icon (except as a symbol of Britain's colonial legacy and social inequality), yet it was surely a much greater loss, involving as it did 72 deaths and many more injuries, some of them life-changing.

I'm sure that's what Vernon means when he says 'It's just a building'.

I hope the workers who are scrambling "to save all the artworks that can be saved" are not putting their own health and lives at risk for the sake of a few paintings and tapestries, however 'fine' and 'historic' those artworks might be.

Let's not lose perspective.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

As a Catholic, I am at such a loss over the fire. Somethings can just not be replaced.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Fortunately, the structure is saved and It can be rebuilt. Don't worry, European Countries have the know how to do these things. The Teatro La Fenice in Venice was destroyed by a fire in 1996, and it was rebuilt exactly like it was.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Two centuries to rebuild? More like a decade or less.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I was reading an article that a lot of the building materials are no longer available. The big Oak forests are long gone. Then the stone structure could of been damaged beyond repair by the heat of the fire and by the water used to put it out. Then there are the artifacts including the windows and paintings.

The "replacement" is going to be more modern than history. Does anyone really know how it was constructed in the first place?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Its pretty insane how a building that took 182 years to build was burnt down in a day centuries later...They can rebuild it, they've done it before. The problem is, it will never be the same.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Shocking hope they will rebuild again, to keep all that memories

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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