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Notre Dame Cathedral's main structure 'saved'

April 15, 2019

Authorities say the basic structure of the 12th-century cathedral, one of Europe's most visited landmarks, has been "saved and preserved." Investigators are looking into a link with renovation work being carried out.

Notre Dame in Paris
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Samson

A monstrous fire engulfed Paris' iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday evening, toppling its spire and causing extensive damage to one of the world's most historic and recognized buildings.

The 12th-century Gothic cathedral was undergoing renovation work, which local media cited as one potential cause for the fire.

What we know so far:

  • The 93-meter (305-foot) spire and roof collapsed.
  • Police said there were no reported deaths, but one firefighter sustained injuries.
  • Authorities said the around 400 firefighters on the scene were able to largely extinguish the fire by early Tuesday morning.
  • Paris fire service said the cathedral's two gargoyle-studded rectangular towers have been saved.
  • Fire department authorities confirmed that the main structure has been "saved and preserved."
  • A part of the vault collapsed and only a section of the interior was destroyed.
  • Many priceless artworks and cultural relics, including the crown of thorns believed to be from Jesus Christ's crucifixion and the tunic of sainted early French king Saint Louis, were saved.
  • Investigators are treating the cause of the fire as an accident, currently ruling out arson or terrorism. 
  • Police evacuated the Ile de la Cite island in central Paris, where the church is situated.

Read more: Mass tourism sparks battle for Montmartre's soul

'Notre Dame will rise again'

French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a major speech and wrote on Twitter before arriving at the scene: "Our Lady of Paris is in flames. A whole nation is emotional. My thoughts are with all Catholics and all in France. Like all our compatriots, I'm sad this evening to see this part of us burning."

Macron spoke of the cathedral's huge cultural and historical value as he addressed reporters in front of the still-burning landmark. "Let's be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago. We've built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So I solemnly say tonight: We will rebuild it together."

He vowed to launch an international appeal for the restoration of the cathedral. 

Firefighters race to put out a massive fire engulfing Notre Dame in Paris
The fire consumed a large part of Notre Dame's roof, which was covered in scaffolding as part of renovation worksImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Vassev

Structural damage

The 12th-century building, immortalized in the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was undergoing renovation work due to "deterioration of structural elements."

In 2012, the Archbishop of Paris and the Diocese of Paris founded "The Friends of Notre Dame" to raise funds to fight the problem, with renovation and repair efforts ongoing. Michel Picaud, president of the foundation, told France 24 in 2017 that the costs were "estimated at a total of €100 million."

"There is no part of the building untouched by the irreparable loss of sculptural and decorative elements, let alone the alarming deterioration of structural elements," said the foundation.

DW will continue updating this story as it develops.

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cw,ls/kl (AFP, dpa)