Notre Dame Cathedral Hit By Major Fire
A major, destructive fire hits one of the most historic churches in the world.
In a blow to France, Catholicism, and history just as Holy Week begins, the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was hit by a major fire today that appears to be causing significant structural damage:
PARIS — A large fire broke out at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris on Monday evening, causing part of the historic church’s spire to collapse as the blaze spread along its roof.
André Finot, a spokesman for the cathedral, said in a telephone interview that the cause of the fire remained unknown, and there was no immediate indication that anyone had been hurt.
“It’s not about the faith — Notre Dame is a symbol of France,” said Emmanuel Guary, a 31-year-old actor who was among a huge crowd amassed on the Rue Rivoli, on the Right Bank. Many had tears in their eyes.
After part of the spire collapsed, the fire appeared to spread across the rooftop, where the growing flames licked the sky and projected a yellow smoke over the horizon.
The fire alarm first went off around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Finot said, adding that the cathedral had been evacuated.
As the last rush of tourists were trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre Dame were abruptly shut without explanation, witnesses said.
Within moments, tiny bits of white smoke started rising from the spire. Billowing out, the smoke started turning gray, then black, making it clear that a fire was growing inside the cathedral, which is currently covered in scaffolding. Soon, orange flames began punching out of the spire, quickly increasing in intensity.
The French police rushed in and started blowing whistles, telling everyone to move back, witnesses said. By then, the flames were towering, spilling out of multiple parts of the cathedral. Tourists and residents alike came to a standstill, pulling out their phones to call their loved ones. Older Parisians began to cry, lamenting how their national treasure was quickly being lost.
PARIS — The central spire of Notre Dame Cathedral collapsed on Monday as a massive fire spread through the building that has stood for more than 800 years at the heart of Paris.
Yellow clouds of smoke billowed into an otherwise perfect blue sky as orange flames assaulted the gargoyles and the belfry. As evening began to fall over the city, a gaping hole could be seen where the enormous vaulted roof once had been.
The heat of the fire could be felt from across the River Seine as firefighters frantically pumped water from cranes. The city seemed to stand still as the fire raged, with thousands of passerby watching from the streets below. Many were in tears, silently filming the scenes on smartphones and broadcasting them across the globe.
The building, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1163, is the most visited monument in Paris, with more than 12 million people coming each year — nearly double the people who visit Eiffel Tower. Its intricate stone work, spires and flying buttresses make it one of the great masterpieces of architecture.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Notre-Dame of Paris preyed by the flames. The sorrow of an entire nation. Our thoughts with all Catholics and French people. Like all our compatriots, I’m sad tonight to see this part of ourselves burn.”
Donia Hammami, 35, a trade expert in Paris, ran to the scene from her gym nearby when she saw the reports of the blaze. She was in tears in the crowd, watching the cathedral burn.
“For me, this has been an inspiration for so many other churches in Europe from the 14th century onward, in the way it came up with a way to mirror more light,” Hammami said. “It’s been here for all those ages.”
“This is a historic moment for all of us, in the worst possible sense of the term,” she added.
President Trump tweeted his advice to Paris: “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!”
There have been several dramatic photos and videos posted on social media today of the fire, but perhaps the most dramatic and shocking have been those showing the Cathedral’s famous spire collapsing amid the flames which you can see in the tweets from Breaking News Feed and Patrick Galey of Agence-France Presse
While it’s obviously too early to speculate about a cause, the Cathedral has been undergoing major renovation work even as it remained open to tourists and worshipers. Given this, the most likely explanation is that the fire is somehow related to those renovation efforts. A complete answer, though, will take time.
In the meantime, this fire comes as Catholics in France and around the world begin the start of Holy Week, which started yesterday on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. An event like this at this time is particularly sad for Catholics worldwide and for the people of France.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is not just a French symbol, though, or even a Catholic one. It is perhaps one of the greatest construction marvels in history. It has stood for nearly 900 years and survived the French Revolution and Hitler. Even if you aren’t Catholic or religious, this is a sad day.
Update: There is some good news amid this tragedy:
At the same time, though, the structure itself is obviously going to suffer tremendous damage that will likely take years to repair. Additionally, the BBC reports that all of the stained glass in the cathedral has melted under the heat of the fire. The loss here is going to be immense and, in some sense, irreparable.
President Trump, meanwhile, had his own suggestion about how to put out the fire:
To which French authorities responded: