This photo provided Tuesday April 16, 2019 by the Paris Fire Brigade shows fire fighters working at the burning Notre Dame cathedral, Monday April 15, 2019. Experts assessed the blackened shell of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Tuesday morning to establish next steps to save what remains after a devastating fire destroyed much of the cathedral that had survived almost 900 years of history. (Benoit Moser, BSPP via AP)

This photo provided Tuesday April 16, 2019 by the Paris Fire Brigade shows fire fighters working at the burning Notre Dame cathedral, Monday April 15, 2019. Experts assessed the blackened shell of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Tuesday morning to establish next steps to save what remains after a devastating fire destroyed much of the cathedral that had survived almost 900 years of history. (Benoit Moser, BSPP via AP)

Fire out, organ intact but work ahead for charred Notre Dame

As France woke up in collective sadness, its richest businessman pledged $226 million for reconstruction

Firefighters declared success Tuesday in a more than 12-hour battle to extinguish an inferno engulfing Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral that claimed its spire and roof, but spared its bell towers and the purported Crown of Christ.

What remained was a blackened shell of the monument immortalized in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a building that had survived almost 900 years of tumultuous French history but was devastated amid renovation works at the start of Catholic Easter week.

Its iconic twin bell towers remained visibly intact. Paris officials said the world famous 18th century organ that boasts 8,000 pipes also appeared to have survived, along with other treasures inside the cathedral, after a plan to safeguard heritage was quickly put into action.

Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire described authorities’ “enormous relief” at the salvaging of pieces such as the purported Crown of Christ, which were transported to a “secret location” after the fire. Statues removed just days ago for restoration work were also spared.

VIDEO: Massive fire engulfs beloved Notre Dame Cathedral

At dawn, the twin 69-meter towers swarmed with building specialists and architects.

“The entire fire is out,” declared Paris firefighters’ spokesman Gabriel Plus, adding that workers were “surveying the movement of structures and extinguishing smouldering residues.”

“The task is — now the risk of fire has been put aside — about the building, how the structure will resist,” said Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez in front of the cathedral.

One of the city’s five senior vicars, Philippe Marsset, told AP: “If God intervened (in the blaze) it was in the courage of the firefighters.”

“Notre Dame was destroyed but the soul of France was not,” Michel Aupetit, archbishop of Paris, said on RMC radio.

Officials consider the fire an accident, possibly as a result of the restoration work at the global architectural treasure.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said the investigation would be “long and complex.” Fifty investigators were working on the probe, he said, and would be interviewing workers from five companies hired to work on renovations to the cathedral’s roof, where the flames first broke out.

Heitz said an initial fire alert was sounded at 6:20 p.m. Monday but no fire was found. The second alert was sounded at 6:43 p.m. and a blaze was discovered in the roofing at that point.

News that the fire was probably accidental has done nothing to ease the national mourning.

“Notre Dame has survived the revolutionary history of France, and this happened during building works,” said influential former Culture Minister Jack Lang.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he called “a part of us” and appealed for help to do so.

As France woke up in collective sadness, its richest businessman, Bernard Arnault, and his luxury goods group LVMH pledged 200 million euros ($226 million) for the reconstruction.

A communique said the Arnault family was “in solidarity with this national tragedy, and join in the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, a symbol of France, of its heritage and togetherness.”

Businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to Salma Hayek, and his billionaire father Francois Pinault also said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs. Artemis is the holding company owning auction house Christie’s and the main shareholder of luxury fashion houses including Gucci.

A statement from Francois-Henri Pinault said “this tragedy impacts all French people” and “everyone wants to restore life as quickly as possible to this jewel of our heritage.”

The 12th-century church is home to a 18th-century organ, relics, stained glass and other works of art of incalculable value, and is a leading tourist attraction.

“The organ is a very fragile instrument, especially its pipes. It has not burnt, but no one can tell whether it has been damaged by water. Nobody knows if it is a functioning state or will need to be restored,” Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told AP.

Repairing the cathedral — including the 800-year-old wooden beams that made up its roof — presents challenges.

The cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century,” he said, adding the roof restoration work would have to use new technologies.

Religious statues removed last week from the cathedral roof as part of a restoration of the monumental Paris church’s towering spire were spared.

The 3-meter-tall copper figures, which looked over the city from Notre Dame’s 96-meter-high peak, were sent to southwestern France for work that is part of a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the cathedral spire and its 250 tons of lead.

On Thursday, the public got a first ground-level look at the statues, representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists, when a huge crane lowered them onto a truck.

An outpouring of grief and offers of help have poured in from around the world.

Pope Francis prayed for French Catholics and the Parisian population “under the shock of the terrible fire.” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said on Twitter the pope “is close to France” and offering prayers “for all those who are trying to cope with this dramatic situation.”

The Vatican’s culture minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, described the cathedral as a “living creature” that has been reborn before and will continue to be the “beating heart” of France.

Ravasi, whose office oversees the patrimony of the Catholic Church worldwide, said he was moved by scenes of faithful and tourists weeping as Notre Dame went up in flames, and suggested art experts at the Vatican Museums could play a role in the rebuilding.

Germany and Poland were among countries offering assistance. “We are united in sorrow. Notre Dame is part of the cultural heritage of mankind and a symbol for Europe,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass wrote on Twitter.

In Poland, where Warsaw and many other places were rebuilt from rubble after World War II, President Andrzej Duda offered experts in the reconstruction of historic buildings.

Egypt’s top Muslim cleric expressed sadness, describing Notre Dame as a “historic architectural masterpiece.” Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s seat of learning, wrote on Facebook: “Our hearts are with our brothers in France.”

Egypt’s Coptic Church expressed “profound sadness,” with the head of Egypt’s Copts, Pope Tawadroz II, describing the fire as a “huge loss for entire humanity.”

___

John Leicester and Samuel Petrequin in Paris, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Colleen Barry in Milan and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. (Photo by Jennifer Coulter)
Avalanche Canada receives $180k for office renovations

The money was granted through Community Gaming Grant

The rocks are painted and then hidden around town. Those who find them can keep them, leave them where they are or hide them elsewhere. (Submitted)
Spreading love and kindness in Nakusp

New group launched to nurture rock painting and hunting community

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Group of cowboys on horses out rounding up cattle, 1888. The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is celebrating Vernon Winter Carnival’s Wild West theme with a virtual trip back in time looking at the ranching days. (GVMA #5021)
Museum rounds up North Okanagan’s wild west past

Vernon Winter Carnival event, Meanwhile…Back at the Ranch, Feb. 9

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Virtual programming will assist the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society in spreding environmental education. (ABNCS photo)
North Okanagan nature centre online with gaming grant

Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society benefits from provincial funds

Penticton Search and Rescue completed two rescues in succession of each other Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 afternoon. (PENSAR / Facebook)
Penticton Search and Rescue members execute back-to-back rescues

PENSAR had barely completed their first rescue of the day when they received a second call

Most Read