Grown men can be seen shedding tears as they witnessed the destruction by fire of a Parisian treasure, the Notre Dame Cathedral that sits on an Island, Île de la Cité, in the center of Paris on the River Seine. This is a site that has been visited by locals and tourists for centuries. It’s estimated that in 2019, around 30,000 people visited the church daily. The fire appears to have started in the early evening, after tourists had left the church area.
I count myself among the many tourists who has been blessed to be able to tour this magnificent French Gothic Architectural wonder in all its splendor in the 1980s.
Initially, there was hope when it was just the spire that was engulfed in flames and as about 400 firemen did battle, but when the roof caved in with the 295 foot spire, reality hit, that the Notre Dame Cathedral would be lost for now to France and the world. I can hear the voices on the ground, crying “noooo” over and over again as the inevitable happened. Then there were thousands of onlookers who observed the developing tragedy in silence.
We here in the USA stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in France, in our shared grief over this tragic, unexpected loss.
But after 11:15 PM in France, there’a glimmer of hope as firefighters could be seen on roof. According to the local fire inspector and police, it looks like the main structure, itself has been saved.
Singing of religious hymns has broken out among the crowds.
The French prosecutor and the police have started an investigation to determine how the fire was started.
Here are the details…
“As per 4/15/2019 Reuters’ report, “Fire devastates Notre-Dame Cathedral, centuries-old Parisian landmark” by Sybille de la Hamaide and Julie Carriat:
“Notre-Dame Cathedral went up in flames on Monday (4/15/2019) in a roaring blaze that devastated the Parisian landmark, a searing loss for the city and for France.”
“Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which collapsed, quickly followed by the entire roof.”
“A huge plume of smoke wafted across the city and ash fell over a large area. Parisians watched on, many of them lost for words.”
“Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of all of us burn,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.”
“Basically the whole rooftop is gone. I see no hope for the building,” said witness Jacek Poltorak, watching the fire from a fifth-floor balcony two blocks from the southern facade of the cathedral, one of France’s most visited sites.”
“Firefighters tried to contain the blaze with water hoses and cleared the area around Notre-Dame, which sits on an island in the River Seine and marks the very centre of Paris. Witnesses said the whole island was being evacuated.”
SYMBOL OF PARIS
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, features in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of tourists every year.
“I have a lot of friends who live abroad and every time they come I tell them to go to Notre-Dame,” said witness Samantha Silva, with tears in her eyes.
“I’ve visited it so many times, but it will never be the same. It’s a real symbol of Paris.”
“The cathedral was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, and bronze statues were removed last week for works.”
“Built over a century starting in 1163, Notre-Dame is considered to be among the finest examples of French Gothic cathedral architecture.”
“It is renowned for its rib vaulting, flying buttresses and stunning stained glass windows, as well as its many carved stone gargoyles.”
“Its 100-metre-long (330-foot) roof, of which a large section was consumed in the first hour of the blaze, was one of the oldest such structures in Paris.”
“A centre of Roman Catholic faith, over the centuries Notre-Dame has also been a target of political upheaval.”
“It was ransacked by rioting Protestant Huguenots in the 16th century, pillaged again during the French Revolution of the 1790s and left in a state of semi-neglect. Hugo’s 1831 work led to revived interest in the cathedral and a major – partly botched – restoration that began in 1844.”
“The wood-and-lead spire was built during that restoration, according to the cathedral’s website.”
“UNESCO said in a tweet it was “closely monitoring the situation and is standing by France’s side to safeguard and restore this invaluable heritage”.
On the 15th of April, France’s leader President Emmanuel Macron tweeted the following:
“Notre-Dame is aflame. Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight.”