On April 15, 2019, at approximately 6:50 pm, a major fire broke out while work was being carried out on the building. The flames destroyed the roof of the cathedral, as well as the framework of the thirteenth century and the spire by Viollet-le-Duc. According to firefighters, the fire is “possibly linked” to the renovation of the building and would have developed from a scaffolding on site for the restoration work.
The entire, in the city center, where the cathedral stands, was isolated.
According to the broadcaster Bfmtv, the church was evacuated and firefighters set up a large security perimeter around the cathedral. According to the same broadcaster, four very high ladders and two arm lifts were deployed. Firefighters, who are intervening on the cathedral of Notre-Dame in flames. The entire Ile-de-la Cité, where the cathedral of Notre-Dame stands, was isolated, the tourists – very numerous – are on the other side of the Seine and stare at the flames that are devouring the roof and the spire of the Gothic monument. On the spot some of the scaffolding that was used for the works have already collapsed. Several helicopters fly over the area. The scaffolding set up for the restoration work, in part already carried out, is collapsing. It is being investigated for culpable disaster.
We ask you to pray for the fireman who was seriously injured and for his family at this time. His effort was heroic to say the least.
The Paris Public Prosecutor announced the opening of an investigation. There are no wounded among the faithful or tourists, the only one in serious condition is a fireman, one of the 500 who intervened with huge means to try to tame the flames that continued to advance inexorably. Late in the evening, the flames were less intense, the firemen announced that the cathedral structure “is safe”.
And the cathedral’s treasures?
The rector added that precious relics such as “the crown of thorns” of Christ is intact, after Emergency teams and volunteers managed to rescue valuable artworks and religious items by forming a line to urgently remove relics and works of art, which ultimately would have been irreplaceable. A tunic said to have worn by King Louis IX when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris was also saved. Historian Camille Pascal stated that “invaluable heritage” had been destroyed. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre-Dame. We can be only horrified by what we see.”
The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo publishes some photos of the fire and writes: “A terrible fire is underway at the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. Paris firefighters are trying to tame the flames. We are mobilised on the spot in close connection with the diocese of Paris. I invite everyone to respect the safety perimeter”. The flames increase in intensity as the minutes pass. The Parisians join the tourists on the Seine river from which you can see the fire going on and follow the story with bated breath. The spire now appears devoured by the flames inside it, most of the roof has already been destroyed. The firemen are on the stairs and try to intervene from above to tame the flames.
Our community has extended our sincerest regrets and prayers to the Archbishop of Paris The Most Reverend Dr. Michel Aupetit this evening.
Praying for the cathedral
People where sitting or standing in groups, they crowded the far reaches of the Boulevard Saint Michel, on the first evening after the fire, they were praying and singing hymns. “As a French Catholic,” says Éloi, 22, “I felt really bad after the fire so I see this vigil as a way to say that even if the flames destroyed the cathedral, we can rebuild it because the Church is made not of stones but is a living body.” He believes the cathedral should be remade just the way it was, as a “prayer to God”. “We are Catholics,” he further adds, “but all French people – Catholics, Muslims, atheists – are united around this disaster and in the hope it will be rebuilt.”
The people of Paris, rather around the world were united in pride with the fire brigade with crowds clapping and cheeringat their heroic efforts.
Begun at the instigation of Bishop Maurice de Sully, its construction extends over more than two centuries, from 1163 to the middle of the fourteenth century. After the French Revolution, the cathedral enjoyed between 1844 and 1864 an important restoration, sometimes controversial, under the direction of the architect Viollet-le-Duc, which incorporates elements and new motifs. For these reasons, the style is not of total uniformity: the cathedral possesses primitive Gothic and glowing Gothic characters. The two rosettes, which adorn each arm of the transept, are among the largest in Europe.
Building both religious and heritage, it is linked to many episodes in the history of France. Royal parish church in the Middle Ages, it welcomed the arrival of the Holy Crown in 1239, then the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804, the baptism of the Duke of Bordeaux in 1821 and the funeral of several presidents of the Third Republic (Adolphe Thiers, Sadi Carnot, Paul Doumer). It is also under its vaults that a Magnificat is sung during the liberation of Paris in 1944 and that ceremonies take place on the death of Presidents Charles de Gaulle (1970), Georges Pompidou (1974) and François Mitterrand (1996). ). In 2013, the 850th anniversary of its construction is celebrated.
Restoration of the nineteenth century
The Notre-Dame cathedral during the works of 1845-1863: the sacristy is finished but the Spire not yet reestablished – “The quay of Montebello and the chevet of Notre-Dame” (detail), Emile Harrouart, circa 1860 – Musée Carnavalet.
The cathedral was then returned to worship (definitively April 18, 1802, shortly after the signing of the concordat of 1801). Some emergency repairs were quickly made, so that in December 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was able to become Emperor of the French, in the presence of Pope Pius VII. The building had been whitewashed for the occasion, and then concealed under the decorations of Percier and Fontaine.
Once peace was restored, the cathedral was in such a state of disrepair that city officials began to consider the possibility of cutting it down altogether. The great novelist Victor Hugo, admirer of the building, then wrote his novel Notre-Dame de Paris (published in 1831) which was a huge success and was intended in particular to raise awareness of the value of such a monument, d as much as the year of the publication of his novel of anti-Legitimist rioters plundered the sacristy and its treasure, broke the stained glass and devastated the archbishop’s palace. He managed to create a broad popular movement of interest in favour of the cathedral. His novel had revived a then marginalised monument and made it more familiar to Parisians. Added to this was the weight of the new European trend known as Romanticism, which sought to give men a new conception of the world. By his novel, Victor Hugo contributed largely to save the bruised masterpiece of a fatal destiny.
The fate of Notre-Dame focused different currents of thought: Catholics of course who wanted to reconcile France with the piety and faith of yesteryear, the monarchists also who strove to reconnect with a close past, but also the secular .
Example of the restitution of the sculpted program carried out by the team of sculptors of Viollet-le-Duc: Statue of saint Denis on the southern buttress of the west facade.
The Minister of Cults at the time decided on a major restoration program. The architect Godde, hitherto in charge of the maintenance of the building, and whose methods of restoration were unanimously opposed to them, was rejected. We turned to Jean-Baptiste Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc who had distinguished themselves on the site of Sainte-Chapelle. The latter submitted a draft and a report, and having won the tender in 1844, presented in 1845 a budget of 3 888 500 francs, which they had to reduce to 2 650 000, for the repair of the cathedral and the construction of a sacristy. The National Assembly voted a law granting this sum and it is thus that after long years of waiting, the restoration could really begin. The meager budget was exhausted in 1850. The work stopped. Viollet-le-Duc had to submit several new proposals so that the work could be completed. In all, more than twelve million francs were granted. Lassus having died in 1857, it was he alone who completed the restoration on May 31, 1864.
The lamentable state of the masonry of the cathedral was generalised, the red door for example was in ruins. There were no more broken pinnacles, collapsed gables. As for the great statuary of the portals and the facade, there was not much left. The restorers had to carry out a profound research work in order to restore (in the same way as possible, which was rarely the case at the time) the degraded parts, as evidenced by the writings and drawings of Viollet-le-Duc.