THE beloved Notre Dame cathedral was ravaged by a catastrophic fire on Monday April 15, 2019.
Having survived wars and revolutions over more than eight centuries, the horrific inferno laid waste to the Gothic building’s roof, old church spire and one of its turrets. Here’s what we know so far.
What started the Notre Dame fire?
Hundreds of firefighters tackled the historic blaze overnight on April 15, battling to stop it wreaking complete destruction of the treasured facade after flames torched the roof.
However, it is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous cathedral.
Attention is being focused on what may have caused the landmark, part of which was being restored, to fall victim to such a disaster.
The Paris prosecutors’ office said cops will carry out an investigation into “involuntary destruction caused by fire”, indicating authorities are treating the blaze as a tragic accident for now.
Arson, including possible terror-related motives, was ruled out earlier.
But French officials have reported that the cause of the fire may be linked to the £5million renovation work that was taking place on the cathedral.
The restoration of the iconic spire and lead roof was the first phase of the massive 20-year renovation project, that began in July 2018 with the installation of 500 tonne scaffolding, reports Le Monde in Paris.
The paper says that the installation was “about to be completed on Monday when a fire broke out in the attic”.
A “stray flame” is thought to have sparked the fire in the loft at 7pm local time (6pm BST).
“It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof,” said an emergency services source.
“The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze.”
After quickly reaching the roof, the fire destroyed the Notre Dame’s stained-glass windows and its wooden interior before toppling the spire, to the shocked gasps of people watching in the surrounding streets.
Was anyone hurt?
There were no deaths, but a firefighter was seriously injured tackling the blaze, along with two police officers.
The fire started in the early evening, minutes after the building had been closed to tourists.
Firefighters evacuated the area around the cathedral in the centre of Paris, as well as nearby buildings.
A fire department spokesman said: “We are not aware of any casualties, or of anyone being trapped, so there will be no emergency rescue plans being put into action.”
There has been huge distress among Parisians, with one telling Le Monde: “It’s as if we had lost a loved one.”
Will the cathedral survive and is Salma Hayek’s husband paying for it to be restored?
A visibly emotional President Emmanuel Macron – who called the blaze a “terrible tragedy” – declared: “We will rebuild Our Lady”.
Describing it as the “epicentre of our lives”, Macron added that “Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we’ve lived all our great moments.”
It’ll be a huge task, however, as flames torched the roof, sending its spire cashing to the ground, leaving a smouldering pile in front of the altar.
General Jean-Claude Gallet, commander of the Brigade of firefighters in Paris, said: “Two-thirds of the roof of Notre-Dame has been ravaged.”
Officials said the main structure of the building has been saved.
The United Nations cultural agency said on Monday that it will help France “save and restore” the “priceless heritage”.
The Heritage Foundation in France has also opened its online donation page.
Although the building has suffered extreme damage, a fire service spokesman said the two towers and the main structure of the cathedral have been saved from complete destruction
Teams worked frantically to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, which housed priceless artefacts and relics of huge religious and international significance.
Gilded candlesticks, artworks and furnishings were among the treasures seen being rushed from the cathedral by a “human chain” before being bundled into trucks by police officers.
Franck Riester, the French culture minister, tweeted that “Major parts of the treasure #NotreDame are now safe at the Paris City Hall”.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo added: “The Crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.”
Despite fire racing through Notre Dame’s roof, brave firefighters were able to prevent the blaze consuming the cathedral’s main structure, including its two bell towers.
There were hopes that the three famous rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, avoided catastrophic damage, while the bells that have rung out at key moments in France’s history were thought to be safe.
Le Monde reports that “some” of the windows exploded under the effect of the heat, “but the large Rose du Midi overlooking the Seine, a masterpiece of the 13th century, seems to have been preserved”.
Some businessmen have vowed to dig deep to repair the cathedral.
Among them is Salma Hayek’s husband, billionaire French fashion mogul Francois-Henri Pinault, who has reportedly pledged 100 million euros (£86million) towards the effort.
Reuters reports that French billionaire Bernard Arnault’s family and his LVMH luxury goods group will donate 200 million euros (£172.8m) to help repair Paris’ Notre-Dame cathedral.
Other campaigns were swiftly launched in the US as well-wishers around the world pledged contributions via social media.
What has Emmanuel Macron said?
The president of France postponed his televised speech to the nation to rush to the scene on April 15.
On Twitter he joined Parisians in mourning the loss of the landmark: “Notre Dame of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
What is the history of Notre Dame Cathedral?
Notre Dame Cathedral was built over the course of a century, starting in 1160 and completed in 1260.
It’s said to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe, and has been modified many times since.
The Cathedral survived being ransacked by rioting Huguenots in the 16th century, and pillaging during the French Revolution of the 1790s.
The name of the monument means “Our Lady” and it is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris.
The architectural marvel was the main setting for Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, which lead to a renewed interest in the building.
The cathedral is now visited by about 13 million people every year – more than 30,000 daily on average.
What happens now?
Experts are assessing the cathedral’s blackened shell to establish the next steps needed to save what remains after the devastating fire destroyed much of the almost 900-year-old building.
Now that the fire is under control, attention is turning to ensuring the structural integrity of the remaining building, say officials.
The Minister of Culture said: “The main structure is saved but there is still a lot of instability, the situation is still precarious.
“Fire crews and architects who are on site are worried because above the arch there is still water, there is carbonised wood waterlogged and therefore [a huge] weight. All this is very fragile… as soon as there is a part that collapses, it may disrupt the entire construction”.
Unfortunately, a French cultural heritage expert says France no longer has trees big enough to replace ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire.
On April 16, Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, said that the timber roof was built with beams more than 800 years ago from primal forests.
He said the roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”
De Feydeau suggested the restoration work will have to use new technologies to rebuild the roof.