Paris, France- Days before the the most important Catholic Holiday of the year, Easter, one of the most revered, iconic structures in the world; Notre-Dame de Paris, better known as Notre-Dame Cathedral burst into flames.
It is not immediately know what the cause is, however, Paris Fire Brigade Commander General Jean-Claude Gallet said the initial call notified authorities of a fire in the attic. Over 400 firefighters were mobilized to handle the blaze. One firefighter was seriously injured.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for saving the cathedrals iconic facade and towers. ” Thanks to their bravery, the worst has been avoided.”
“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.”
By late Monday night the iconic spire had toppled. Secretary of the Interior Ministry Laurent Nunez said the fire was weakened and the two cathedral’s towers were safe.
Notre Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III and the cathedral took another 200 years to finish. Today, it is considered a feat of architecture with its flying buttresses, stained glass, towers, and spire. It is also a major religious symbol and cultural symbol of France.
Located in lle de la Cite’, a small island in the middle of the city, the cathedral draws over 123 million visitors a year.
One of the most famous relics held with the cathedral is the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of the Christ. Along with this is the grand organ and many other religious and historical artifacts.
The central spire was built in the 1800’s as part of a broad renovation. The renovation was buoyed partially by the success of Victor Hugo’s ” THe Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.
Pledges from French businessmen immediately started rolling in. Billionaire Bernard Arnault’s family and his LVMH luxury goods group — which is behind Louis Vuitton — said that they would donate €200 million ($226 million). And Francois Henri Pinault, the head of Kering — which owns brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent — vowed to donate €100 million ($113 million).
Paris City Hall said it would contribute €50 million ($56 million) to the project.
An investigation was opened into what prosecutors described as “involuntary destruction by fire.” Authorities have ruled out arson and possible terrorism-related motives, The Associated Press reported.
Flames could be seen near scaffolding — high at the top of the famous church where $6.8 million in renovations were being completed — and billowing smoke was visible from miles away in the French capital.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that many of the precious artifacts inside the cathedral, including a relic believed to be worn by Jesus Christ which was stored in the collapsed spire, had been saved.
“The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place,” Hidalgo said in French on Twitter.