Massive fire ravages Paris cathedral
A major fire has engulfed the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, one of France's most famous landmarks.
The 850-year-old Gothic building's spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers, has been saved, officials say.
Firefighters are still working to contain the blaze as teams try to salvage the artwork stored inside.
President Emmanuel Macron called it a "terrible tragedy". The cause of the fire is not yet clear.
Officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.
Paris prosecutor's office said it had opened an inquiry into "accidental destruction by fire". A firefighter was seriously injured while tackling the blaze.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral
How did the fire spread?
The fire began at around 18:30 (16:30 GMT) and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.
Some 500 firefighters worked to prevent one of the bell towers from collapsing. More than four hours later, fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the main structure had been "saved and preserved" from total destruction.
Sections of the cathedral were under scaffolding as part of the extensive renovations and 16 copper statues had been removed last week.
Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said the building had suffered "colossal damages", and teams were working to save the cathedral's remaining artwork.
How have people reacted?
Thousands of people gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen openly weeping, while others sang hymns or said prayers.
Several churches around Paris rang their bells in response to the blaze, which happened as Catholics celebrate Holy Week.
Because of the fire, Mr Macron cancelled a speech on TV in which he was due to address the street protests that have rocked France for months.
Visiting the scene, the president said the cathedral was a building "for all French people", including those who had never been there.
"We'll rebuild Notre-Dame together", he said as he praised the "extreme courage" and "professionalism" of the firefighters.
Timeline of Notre Dame alarms emerges
Some details of the chronology of Monday's fire are beginning to emerge.
At 6:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. ET), security guards at the Notre Dame first heard the fire alarm and evacuated the cathedral, even though they didn't see any sign of a fire, a spokesman for the Paris fire brigade told CNN.
The fire alarm rang again at 6:43 p.m. local time (12:43 p.m. ET). That's when the cathedral’s security officers noticed the fire, Paris Prosecutor Rémy Heitz confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday.
Les œuvres sauvées de l’incendie de #NotreDame par les pompiers, les policiers et les agents municipaux, mises à l’abri cette nuit à l’Hôtel de Ville, sont à présent prises en charge par les services de l’Etat. Un très grand merci à toutes les équipes qui se sont mobilisées. pic.twitter.com/AZId6ad0NV
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 16, 2019
Donations for the reconstruction of Notre Dame top $700 million
The total amount of donations by French business leaders and businesses for the reconstruction of Notre Dame confirmed by CNN so far has topped $700 million.
The latest donations of $28 million come from French billionaires Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, Martin and Olivier Bouygues and the Crédit Agricole — Pays de France Foundation.
In a statement, French bank Crédit Agricole said it was "sharing the collective emotion caused by the damage to this jewel of our heritage."
There are no trees in France that are big enough to rebuild Notre Dame's roof
There are not any trees in France that are large enough to replace the ancient Beachwood beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire, Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the French Heritage Foundation (Fondation du Patrimoine), told CNN.
“The roof was made of beechwood beams over 800 years ago. There are no longer trees of that size in France,” he said.
Asked if any trees in Europe were big enough for the beams and could be imported to Paris, he said, “I don’t know.
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10 Notre Dame Cathedral facts you need to know
1. The Cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris
France is the most visited country in the world. Surprisingly enough, its most visited monument is not the Eiffel Tower.
If Disneyland Paris is the number one tourist destination in France, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the most visited monument within the Paris city limits.
More than 13 million visitors pass through the grand gate of Notre-Dame every year. This means the Cathedral welcomes around 35 thousand visitors a day! In France, 99% of towns have a smaller population than this!
If you wish to avoid the crowds, I recommend you arrive early at Notre-Dame. The gates open at 7:45AM but most visitors arrive a bit later, so take advantage of the early hours to visit the grandiose monument without thousands of people around.
Also, keep in mind that you can always book our Notre Dame (and the Heart of Paris) guided tour.
2. The Cathedral is built on a sacred location
Notre-Dame de Paris is built on the Île de la Cité (City Island) in the very center of Paris. It is quite hard to imagine the Île de la Cité without the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Standing here since the 12th century, the Gothic masterpiece seems to have been here forever.
However, the Île de la Cité was here long before the Cathedral. After the Gauls were defeated by the Romans in the Battle of Lutetia (52 BC), the new Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia settled and developed on the Left-Bank and on the Île de la Cité. The common and popular neighborhoods were located on the Left-Bank along current Rue Saint-Jacques.
Since the origins, the Île de la Cité was divided in two parts: the westernmost half was dedicated to the matters of the City and was home to the Palace were the rulers could reside during their visits in Lutetia; the easternmost half, on the other hand, was dedicated to worship and hosted several altars (at least, if not temples – this remains unclear). This island division, with one half dedicated to justice and ruling and the other one dedicated to religion – survived through times. During the Middle-Ages, the Roman Palace was replaced by the Royal Palace – which later became the Palace of Justice and the Conciergerie – and the altars were replaced by successive catholic churches.
Notre-Dame was later built on the remains of these churches.
3. The Cathedral is a measurement reference : the overlooked “Point Zéro”
If you already stood in line in front of Notre-Dame, chances are you looked at the sculpted façade, or towards the Seine riverbanks… but you probably didn’t look down to the ground very much, did you?… Well, if you didn’t, this was a mistake, because you missed an important detail: the official reference point representing Paris.
Indeed, on the square in front of the church, a much overlook tiny plate, engraved with a compass, and known as “point zéro des routes de France” (Point Zero of French Roads), indicates where all distances to and from Paris are measured from.
4. The Cathedral’s bells have had a life of their own
Like often with churches, the bells of Notre-Dame bear names. In Notre-Dame, they are called Marie, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Anne-Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie, for the main ones.
But what is more interesting is the tumultuous lives of these bells. If Quasimodo, the famous hunchback created by Victor Hugo to ring the bells of the great Cathedral was an invention, the two-to-three ton pieces of bronze have had a life on their own. The bells we now hear are no longer the ones installed upon completion of the Cathedral, six-hundred years ago.
Indeed, after the French Revolution, in 1791, most bells were taken down from Notre-Dame and melted to make cannon balls. New bells were only installed during the mid-19th century and contributed to a recognizable chime which sounded in the skies of the French Capital for 150 years. In 2013, to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame, the bells were replaced in a much mediatized ceremony and the chimes renewed.
5. The Cathedral’s chimeras are not so-Medieval
A typical element of Gothic art, chimeras and gargoyles are well represented on the walls of Notre-Dame. Gargoyles are hollow statues located at strategic locations to ensure water drainage. Chimeras are purely decorative.
On the towers of Notre-Dame, famous chimeras allow tourists to take well known perspective pictures with the tower chimeras in the foreground and Paris in the background.
6. The Cathedral was saved by Quasimodo
After the French Revolution, Notre-Dame de Paris was much damaged. Some statues had been destroyed and the bells had mostly been melted.
It entered the 19th century in a much degraded state, and almost fell into oblivion, being used as a storage place instead of a religious one. In 1804, however, Napoleon crowned himself the Emperor of the French in the Cathedral, propelling it back onto the front pages.
In 1831, Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, set in mid-15th century Paris with Notre-Dame de Paris as its central location, brought an unprecedented fame to the long-forgotten church. Popular outcries to preserve it, and ministerial programs to preserve it lead to massive renovations directed by Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century, thus saving this jewel of Gothic art.
7. The Cathedral is home to a Forest
Notre-Dame de Paris measures 127 meters (length) by 48 meters (width) and the main nave is 43 meter-high under the roof.
With such dimensions, it may come as surprising that the roof structure is entirely made of wood, dating back from the 12th century. The wood-timber frame is made of more than 1300 trees, each beam being made from one tree.
The roof structure is commonly nicknamed “the Forest” due to its massive dimensions!
8. The Cathedral was a place of beheading
Not a real beheading though. During the Revolution, the people was so disgusted by monarchy that they even started to take down every symbol of royalty on the streets of Paris.
On the main façade of Notre-Dame, the revolutionaries took off the heads of twenty eight statues in a gallery, thinking they were statues of French kings. However, they were mistaken, for these statues were actually representations of the kings of Judah.
The statues are still missing their heads, but twenty-one of them have been found and can be observed in the Musée du Moyen-Âge de Cluny (Middle-Ages Museum of Cluny) on the Left-Bank.
9. The Cathedral follows the Golden Ratio
In architecture, the golden ratio is visible in any shape composed by a square and a rectangle whose combined dimensions roughly correspond to a 1:1.61 ratio. This ratio is known to be a dimension of perfection in art. In architecture, some of the most appreciated and acclaimed buildings follow this ratio, such as the Parthenon in Athens, or the Taj Mahal in Agra.
The western façade of Notre-Dame is clearly composed according to this ratio. The height of the cathedral divided by its width roughly equals to 1.61, the total height is roughly 1.61 times the height of the first two floors, the total width(central section + two towers) is roughly 1.61 the width of one tower plus the central section…
Many other decorative details follow the golden ratio.
10. The Cathedral is home to the Holy Crown
At last, Notre-Dame is home to a priceless treasure among which are the Holy Crown worn by the Christ, a piece of the Cross, and a nail. If the rest of the treasure can be admired year round, you may see the Holy Relics every first Friday of the month during the dedicated worship ceremonies, as well as for Lent and Good Fridays.
'Miracle' Notre Dame Cathedral still stands thanks to firefighters
Though much of its roof is collapsed and interior decimated, the charred walls of the Notre Dame Cathedral remain standing over Paris' Seine River.
That is a testament to the "face-to-face" battle firefighters waged through the night to quash a massive blaze that ripped through the 13th Century basilica and prompted a global response to help rebuild, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region that encompasses Paris said.
"When you see it from the outside, it's still standing, and that is quite a miracle," Pécresse said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning.
Pécresse said firefighters fought the blaze through the night, saving the main sanctuary and the cathedral's historic bell towers. The first photos released from inside showed the altar intact with a gold crucifix still hanging above it.
The blaze broke out at 6:50 p.m. local time Monday and quickly spread along the roof of the cathedral, which was undergoing a $170 million renovation was partially encased in scaffolding. It took firefighters hours to bring the fire under control as much of nave was constructed of ancient timbers that fueled the flame and came crashing through the roof.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Remy Heitz, the Paris public prosecutor, said Tuesday 50 people are working on the "long" and "complex" probe of the fire, but there is no evidence to suggest the blaze was deliberately set. Investigators are leaning towards the theory it was an accident that sparked the inferno, he added.
Trump offers condolences and US assistance to Macron in call
President Trump spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call this morning to offer condolences for the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
"The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris, and the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure," she said.
How one artist responded to the cathedral fire
As Notre Dame Cathedral burned, Cristina Correa Freile channeled her own emotion by imagining how the church's most famous fictional denizen — its hunchbacked bell ringer — might have responded to the calamity.
She drew Quasimodo, the Disney cartoon version, embracing the iconic Paris landmark — complete with twin towers. She posted her drawing Monday on Instagram, where it quickly went viral and earned more than 160,000 social media supporters.
"I made (this) because of what's happening right now," said the architect and illustrator, who lives in Ecuador. "The world embraces Notre Dame right now."
The physically deformed Quasimodo is the central character of Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," which tells the tale of his obsession with the beautiful Esmeralda. The story was told on the big screen in 1939, then Disney remade it in 1996 as a cartoon.
Other developments pertaining to the fire include:
— 10 a.m. EDT: French Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said investigators identified weaknesses in the cathedral structure that need securing, "notably in the vault and the north transept pinion," an area of the nave that forms a cross.
— 11 a.m. EDT: Photos of relics saved from the cathedral were released, including the Crown of Thorns, purportedly worn by Jesus when he was crucified, and the the Tunic of Saint Louis, which supposedly belong to King Louis IX.
— 12 p.m. EDT: The White House released a new statement saying President Donald Trump offered his condolences to Macron on behalf of the American people.
"The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris, and the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure," the statement reads. "The Cathedral has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium, and we are saddened to witness the damage to this architectural masterpiece. Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy. France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!"
— 12:05 p.m. EDT: New wire service photos released show the extensive damage inside the main sanctuary of Notre Dame, including charred wooden beams that fell from the ceiling and landed in front of the altar.