The rosetta window of Notre Dame, usually a cool toned blue, radiated a warm yellow hue in Paris yesterday evening as a fire blazed and smoke rose behind it. Notre Dame was burning, and at risk of total destruction.
The 850-year-old cathedral first caught on flame around 6:50 pm local time, 1:50 pm EST, in the attic while a mass was in progress inside. People first began to notice smoke coming from the cathedral while it was undergoing renovation work, but soon the smoke grew and flames began to appear.
Photo Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP / Getty
The fire quickly grew and spread, consuming two-thirds of the roof and causing the central spire to collapse. The possibility of total devastation of the cathedral appeared likely in the first few hours as the fire raged on.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” said Notre Dame spokesperson Andre Finot about an hour into the fire.
Photo Credit: 2 Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP / Getty
Four hours later, however, around 11:00 pm local time, it was announced that both towers of the cathedral were believed to be safe from destruction.
“The fire is now weaker. We are now in a time of cooling but both towers of the cathedral are safe,” said secretary to the interior minister, Laurent Nunez told reporters at the scene. “We're still working to save the cathedral's work of arts."
While the two towers have been saved, it was estimated to take another three hours from that point to contain the fire. There were around 400 firefighters on the scene fighting the blaze. They eventually turned their efforts to saving the precious artwork and relics inside the cathedral.
Photo Credit: 3 Charles Platiau / Reuters
The cathedral is home to many coveted relics and pieces of art. During this week of Holy Week, they are usually unveiled to the public. They include the Holy Crown, believed to be from the crown of thorns placed on Jesus, a fragment of the wood of the cross, and one of the nails used to crucify Jesus.
People gathered around Notre Dame to watch the efforts and the blaze but also to sing hymns and pray together. Some bystanders earlier said to local reporters that they wouldn’t leave until the burning had stopped.
Photo Credit: 4 Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP / Getty
The cathedral, built in the 13th century, is the most famous Catholic church in the world. The cathedral was built in the French Medieval Gothic style and was considered a feat of architecture for the time.
The first stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander the Third and 200 years later the cathedral was complete. The iconic central spire was added during a restoration effort in the 19th century, partially caused by the popularity of Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Regardless of religion, Notre Dame has become an iconic site for most tourists. It is one of Paris' most visited sites, bringing in around 23 million visitors a year.
The cathedral had been currently undergoing renovations that were supposed to be completed in 2022. The renovations were a $6.8 million project. While there is no sure cause of the fire yet, it has been tentatively linked to the renovations.
Despite the tragic loss, the French have spoken hopefully on the future of the cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the launch of an international fundraising campaign to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral.
"I’m telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together. This is probably part of the French destiny," said Macron. "And we will do it in the next years. Starting tomorrow…"