The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was undergoing renovations, suffered extensive damage on Monday, April 15, 2019, after a fire ravaged the interior of the building. The cause is as yet unknown.
Since Monday night, the fire has been brought under control and no fatalities have been reported.
According to CBS News, Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet relayed to reporters that his team of 500 had managed to save the cathedral’s iconic rectangular towers from the blaze, but that there was “still a risk that some of the interior structures could collapse.”
Devastated onlookers gathered along the banks of the Seine to witness the horror of the spreading flames. Many feared that the entire structure of the cathedral would be compromised and that the iconic landmark would be lost to the archives. “It is like losing a member of one’s own family,” said shocked onlooker Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, 45.
“Paris is beheaded,” bereft Parisian Pierre-Eric Trimovillas, 32, told The New York Times as the cathedral’s spire fell to the ground.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts as the blaze hit its peak. “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” he began. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) April 15, 2019
Video footage showed flames and smoke emanating from behind the altar and billowing from the building as the cathedral was evacuated. However, French President Emmanuel Macron quickly revealed that the cathedral’s center remained intact. “The worst has been avoided,” he said, “although the battle is not yet totally won.”
Indeed, a substantial hole has been left behind in the 850-year-old cathedral’s roof, but the altar and cross are preserved. “It’s not as bad as I feared,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo shared, speaking to Le Monde.
“Only a small part of the vault collapsed. Interior seems relatively untouched. Hallelujah!” wrote @CathedralNotre, according to the New York Post. Photos testify to the preservation of several rows of wooden pews and a cross stationed at the center of the cathedral. The New York Post‘s coverage referred to the cathedral’s center as “miraculously intact.”
Notre-Dame was built between 1163 and 1345, and has long been considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the country. The Catholic cathedral is one of Paris’s most famous landmarks and welcomes approximately 13 million visitors every year.
Kevin Murphy, professor and chair of the art history department at Vanderbilt University, spoke to CBS News after the blaze hit headlines. “It symbolizes the city of Paris,” he said of the cathedral. “Its symbolism really resonates through its religious significance and its civil and national significance.”
France’s president has vowed to rebuild the landmark, CBS News reported, and allegedly, a benefactor has already come forward. Billionaire business mogul François-Henri Pinault, who owns the fashion brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has pledged approximately US$113 million toward the reconstruction.
As one Twitter user exclaimed, “God is in control!”