A fire broke out at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, causing part of the Gothic cathedral’s iconic spire to collapse in flames. According to The Associated Press, a spokesman for the cathedral said the entire wooden frame of Notre-Dame would likely be destroyed along with the spire. Emergency workers are reportedly trying to save as much artwork as possible. France’s Interior Ministry said that over 400 firefighters responded to the scene, but because the fire started on the roof, it is too high to extinguish from the outside.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” said cathedral spokesman André Finot.
The fire began around 6:30 p.m. Though the cause of the fire remains unknown, the Paris fire brigade told French media that the blaze could be “potentially linked” to a massive renovation project that began in 2017. The spire — made of oak and 250 tons of lead — was a primary focus of the renovation project, and just last week copper statues of the twelve Apostles and symbols of the four evangelists were lifted off the church’s roof.
Notre-Dame was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and has stood for hundreds of years as a masterpiece of medieval Gothic architecture with its myriad gargoyles and massive flying buttresses. The cathedral has housed an array of priceless art artifacts as well, including some built into the structure, like its famed stained-glass rose window. In the mid-1800s, a massive restoration project was undertaken to fix much of the cathedral, which had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect and damage done during the French Revolution. The renovation was partly inspired by the descriptions of the crumbling building contained in Victor Hugo’s famed 1831 book, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
The more recent renovation project was meant to address an array of problems that had begun to plague Notre-Dame, even though most weren’t visible to the thousands of tourists and visitors that walked through the cathedral each day. The issues included broken gargoyles — their grotesque faces double as a way to divert rainwater — and eroding limestone pinnacles, which help anchor the flying buttresses that hold up the cathedral.
But as necessary as these renovations were, Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College, told The New York Times, that construction on old houses of worship often leads to disaster as flames and sparks from tools can easily latch on to flammable material.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron is reportedly treating the Notre-Dame fire as an emergency. He canceled a planned speech Monday where he was set to address the so-called “Yellow Vest” demonstrations that have swept through Paris in recent months. On Twitter, Macron wrote, through Paris in recent a speech addressing the so-c posted on Twitter: “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.”
Massive fire breaks out at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris pic.twitter.com/WGSSaLLAjX
— The Independent (@Independent) April 15, 2019
— ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2019