Mas­sive blaze en­gulfs Notre Dame Cathe­dral

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY LORI HINNANT AND SAMUEL PETREQUIN As­so­ci­ated Press

A mas­sive fire en­gulfed the up­per reaches of Paris’ soar­ing Notre Dame Cathe­dral as it was un­der­go­ing ren­o­va­tions Mon­day, threat­en­ing one of the great­est ar­chi­tec­tural trea­sures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets be­low.

The blaze col­lapsed the cathe­dral’s spire and spread to one of its land­mark rec­tan­gu­lar tow­ers, but Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gal­let said the church’s struc­ture had been saved af­ter firefighters man­aged to stop the fire spread­ing to the north­ern bel­fry.

The 12th-cen­tury cathe­dral is home to in­cal­cu­la­ble works of art and is one of the world’s most fa­mous tourist at­trac­tions, im­mor­tal­ized by Vic­tor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunch­back of Notre Dame.”

The ex­act cause of the blaze was not known, but French me­dia quoted the Paris fire brigade as say­ing the fire is “po­ten­tially linked” to a 6 mil­lion-euro ($6.8 mil­lion) ren­o­va­tion project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. The Paris pros­e­cu­tors’ of­fice ruled out arson and pos­si­ble ter­ror-re­lated mo­tives, and said it was treat­ing it as an accident.

As the spire fell, the sky lit up or­ange and flames shot out of the roof be­hind the nave of the cathe­dral, among the most vis­ited land­marks in the world. Hun­dreds of peo­ple lined bridges around the is­land that houses the church, watch­ing in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.

Speak­ing along­side ju­nior In­te­rior min­is­ter Lau­rent Nunez late Mon­day, Gal­let noted that “two thirds of the roof­ing has been rav­aged.” He said firefighters would keep work­ing overnight to cool the build­ing.

Late Mon­day, signs pointed to

the fire near­ing an end as lights could be seen through the win­dows, mov­ing around the front of the cathe­dral, ap­par­ently in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­spect­ing the scene.

The city’s mayor, Anne Hi­dalgo, said the sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of art­work and holy ob­jects in­side the church had been re­cov­ered. Re­mark­ably, only one of the about 400 firefighters who bat­tled the blaze was in­jured, of­fi­cials said.

The fire came less than a week be­fore Easter amid Holy Week com­mem­o­ra­tions. As the cathe­dral burned, Parisians gath­ered to pray and sing hymns out­side the church of Saint Julien Les Pau­vres across the river from Notre Dame while the flames lit the sky be­hind them. Paris Arch­bishop Michel Au­petit in­vited priests across France to ring church bells in a call for prayers.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron was treat­ing the fire as a na­tional emergency, rush­ing to the scene and straight into meet­ings at the Paris po­lice head­quar­ters nearby. He pledged to re­build the church and said he would seek in­ter­na­tional help to do so.

“The worse has been avoided al­though the bat­tle is not yet to­tally won,” the pres­i­dent said, adding that he would launch a na­tional fund­ing cam­paign on Tues­day and call on the world’s “great­est tal­ents” to help re­build the mon­u­ment.

Built in the 12th and 13th cen­turies, Notre Dame is the most fa­mous of the Gothic cathe­drals of the Mid­dle Ages as well as one of the most beloved struc­tures in the world. Sit­u­ated on the Ile de la Cite, an is­land in the Seine river, its ar­chi­tec­ture is fa­mous for, among other things, its many gar­goyles and its iconic fly­ing but­tresses.

Among the most cel­e­brated art­works in­side are its three stained-glass rose win­dows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathe­dral. Its price­less trea­sures also in­clude a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only oc­ca­sion­ally dis­played, in­clud­ing on Fri­days dur­ing Lent.

French his­to­rian Camille Pas­cal told BFM broad­cast channel the blaze marked “the de­struc­tion of in­valu­able her­itage.”

“It’s been 800 years that the Cathe­dral watches over Paris,” Pas­cal said. “Happy and un­for­tu­nate events for cen­turies have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”


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