Notre-Dame de Paris Burns

On April 15, 2019, at 6:50 pm (12:50 pm EST) local time in France, a fire began in Notre-Dame de Paris, according to the Paris fire department. It caused the collapse of the spire and the oak roof. Hours later, French Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez announced that the fire was “decreased in intensity” and “the structure of the building is saved including the north tower.”

Notre-Dame de Paris means Our Lady of Paris in English. The cathedral is a symbol of Paris and the French nation. Building began in 1183 and was completed in 1345. It has survived over 800 years and numerous wars such as the French Wars of Religion, French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and World War II. It has served as the site for hundreds of historical events such as the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Francis I of France, the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord, the coronation of rulers such as Henry VI of England and Napoleon I, and the funerals of several French presidents.

No deaths have been reported as of now, and authorities have not yet released the cause of the fire. According to CBS, Priest Jean-Francois Martins the Paris’ Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Sports said, “We made a human chain, with our friends from the church… to get, as quick as possible, to get all the relics.” The Great Organ, the Tunic of St. Louis, the Crown of Thorns, the altar, and the cross are amongst those rescued.

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Francois Thierry built the Great Organ in the 1730s. It has an estimated 8,000 pipes and is one of the most famous and largest organs in the world. The Tunic of St. Louis is said to have been worn by King Louis IX of France who was born in 1423. The Crown of Thorns which is believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ as his crucifixion was saved by the chain. In 1238, Latin Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople offered the crown to Louis IX who accepted it. Until the French Revolution, the relic resided at the  Sainte-Chapelle, and the Concordat of 1801 placed it at Notre Dame. The relic may be seen on the first Friday of every month and each Friday during Lent when it is brought out for a veneration mass.

The spire on top of the cathedral collapsed during the fire, destroying about two-thirds of the roof. Sacred artifacts within the spire may also be gone such as the relics of St. Denis and St. Genevieve.

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The elaborate Gothic-spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris seen in a photo at left was destroyed in a fire and completely collapsed on April 15, 2019.

Efforts to rebuild the centuries-old church may take half a century since wood, glass, and stone will need to be replaced. The cathedral has about 13,000 beams and may need 3,000 oak trees to replace. During the Middle Ages, oak trees were plentiful, but due to deforestation and overuse of materials can make the search hard. Limestone was used to build the cathedral while it was quarried and assembled by hand. Creating a homogenous effect with the stone will take tons and tons of it.

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A picture taken on April 16, 2019 shows the altar surrounded by charred debris inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire.

Dr. Emily Guerry, Senior Lecturer in Medieval European History at Britain’s University of Kent, told CBS News that rebuilding Notre Dame will take”40 years if we’re very fast maybe 20 years, but it will be a generation. This is going to be a huge communal effort. The cost will be exorbitant.”

The oil company Total and the billionaire, François-Henri Pinault, along with numerous others have pledged millions of dollars to rebuild the cathedral. The governments of Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom have also offered support.

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