Notre-Dame Will Be Rebuilt, Macron Says, as Fire Is Extinguished
PARIS — The fire that roared through Notre-Dame has been extinguished, officials said on Tuesday, after President Emmanuel Macron of France vowed to rebuild the cathedral, a beloved symbol of the city for more than eight centuries, and prosecutors began investigating what caused the blaze that badly damaged a world-renowned jewel of Gothic architecture.
Just hours after the cathedral’s lacy spire and much of its roof collapsed amid leaping flames and smoke on Monday, Mr. Macron stood outside the still-burning structure and said an international effort to raise funds for reconstruction would begin Tuesday.
“We will rebuild Notre-Dame,” he said. “Because that is what the French expect.”
The billionaire Pinault family of France pledged 100 million euros, or about $113 million, to the effort, Agence-France Presse reported, and the family of Bernard Arnault, owners of the luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, plan to contribute €200 million.
The first fire alarm on Monday was triggered at 6:20 p.m., and checks were carried out but no fire was found, the Paris prosecutor, Rémy Heitz, said on Tuesday. A second alarm went off at 6:43 p.m., he said, and fire was discovered in the wooden framework of the attic.
“In the meantime, the cathedral had been evacuated, because a Mass had started shortly before,” he said.
Mr. Heitz said that nearly 50 investigators were working to determine the cause of the fire, interviewing workers and other witnesses, but that “it will be a long and complex investigation.” So far, the fire appears to have been an accident, he said, adding, “Nothing at this stage suggests a voluntary act.”
Two police officers and one firefighter were injured, but no one was killed.
Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for the Paris firefighters, said Tuesday morning that the fire had been extinguished but that firefighters were still looking for “residual” flames that might need to be put out.
Mr. Plus, speaking to reporters near Notre-Dame, said experts were now going to examine the building’s structure to see how weakened it was.
Notre-Dame, which was built in the 12th and 13th centuries on the foundations of an earlier church and Roman ramparts on an island in the Seine, is visited by about 13 million people a year. Towering above the surrounding buildings, it is instantly recognizable to people around the globe as not only a religious landmark, but also a national, cultural and historic emblem of France.
A Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Pope Francis was praying for “all those who are trying to cope with this dramatic situation.”
Stunned Parisians and visitors, along with countless people around the world watching live on television, looked on in horror as the cathedral, with its famous flying buttresses built to support the relatively thin and tall walls of its era, burned days before Easter Sunday services were to be held.
[As a French landmark went up in flames, the symbolism for the troubled country was hard to miss, our architecture critic writes.]
Hundreds of bystanders gathered near Notre-Dame on Tuesday morning, many struggling to fathom what had happened.
“I was stunned when I came to see the fire last night, and I’m still so shocked this morning,” said Serge Roger, a 67-year-old retired Parisian. He watched firefighters spray water on the cathedral, some going in and out of the smoking building, while others pumped water from the Seine.
As tears started to fill Mr. Roger’s eyes, Pascale Defranqui, 59, gave him some ashes that she had collected near the cathedral the previous evening. Like Mr. Roger, she said she had struggled to sleep. She cycled around the cathedral at dawn on Tuesday, she said, to pay tribute to “the most beautiful lady of Paris, still standing.”
“We Parisians need to talk about what happened to Notre-Dame, because we love it, we know it, it’s part of our daily lives,” Ms. Defranqui said. She had studied the cathedral’s architecture in art history classes at the Louvre, she said, and would marvel at its towers on her way back from the museum to her apartment on the Île Saint-Louis, the island next to Île de la Cité, where Notre-Dame is located.
“I’m not sure I want to know what happened,” Ms. Defranqui said. “I just want to see it renovated as quickly as possible.”
The cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, said the fire appeared to have started the network of heavy wooden beams, many dating from the Middle Ages and nicknamed “the forest,” that was above the interior vaulted stone ceiling and below the roof.
“At the cathedral, we have fire monitors,” Monsignor Chauvet said Tuesday on France Inter, a radio station. “Three times a day they go up, under the wooden roof, to make an assessment.”
He said that there was also an on-site fireman at the cathedral, although he did not say how often, where that person was normally stationed, or whether that person was present yesterday.
“For security, I don’t think we can do more,” he said. “But there is always an incident that you can’t predict.”
In addition to damaging the building itself, the fire put at risk its relics and stained-glass windows, with panes held together by lead that melts at high temperatures. While one treasure, a relic of the crown of thorns said to have been worn by Jesus during his crucifixion, was saved, the status of other historic items is unclear.
[The blaze threatened the cathedral’s vast collection of Christian art and relics.]
The architect who oversaw work on the cathedral in the 1980s and 1990s said he believed much of the building and its furnishings could be saved. Photos of the interior showed that many flammable fixtures, like pews and a pulpit, remained intact.
“The stone vaulting acted like a firewall and it kept the worst heat away,” said the architect, Bernard Fonquernie.
But the roof, a vast wooden framework covered with sheets of lead, appeared to be largely gone, he said. Earlier tests on the roof had showed that most of the structure was made of the same oak and chestnut beams assembled by the original builders, Mr. Fonquernie said.
It lasted so long because the roof was regularly repaired and watertight. But that meant the wood beneath was very dry and could burn easily, he said.
[Here’s what we know and don’t know about the fire.]
Two years ago, a spokesman for the cathedral said it was badly in need of an extensive makeover estimated to cost nearly $180 million. Much of the limestone exterior was eroded, with pieces dislodged by wind and rain, said the spokesman, André Finot.
On Monday, the cathedral was covered in scaffolding for restoration work, which fire experts said can expose aging houses of worship to open flames or sparks from equipment.
“And now it’s gone, perhaps due to carelessness,” Mr. Fonquernie said. “Working with heat, as they did, next to so much old dry wood requires extreme care.”
News credit : Nytimes