A major fire is engulfing the famed Medieval Notre-Dame cathedral in central Paris, with smoke billowing over Paris.
The cathedral is in the process of a period of restoration, and in the past couple of days has had sixteen bronze statues removed from the roof area in recent days to facilitate work. The fire appears to have started in the roof where work is taking place.
UPDATE 2000 — Parisian Island home of Notre-Dame evacuated as fire burns
Le Parisien reports the Ile de la Cité, a natural island in the Seine within the city of Paris, is to be evacuated with emergency shelters being opened in Paris to take in some 1,000 people who inhabit the island.
UPDATE 1945 — A history of roof fires
The apparent circumstance of the blaze which is slowly destroying the in parts 13th-century roof of the Paris Notre-Dame Cathedral bears superficial similarities to the partial destruction of the Basilica of St. Donatian and St. Rogatian in Nantes, France. Workmen were engaging in weatherproofing work on the roof when the equipment they were using caused the timbers of the roof to burn.
As mentioned in update 1855, restoration work can be an extremely vulnerable time for historic buildings, as ancient timbers come into close proximity to power tools, work lights, chemicals, and other potential sources of ignition.
THIS PHOTOGRAPH FROM 2015:
A report by France3 from earlier this year revealed that while significant work was ongoing at the burnt church, with 30 stonemasons on site, there were still two years of works to go before the church could reopen.
Given the size and historic importance of Notre-Dame, it could be a decade or more before rebuilding work is completed, assuming increasingly secular France decides to embark upon that project. Notre-Dame took almost two centuries to build, in several stages.
A 54-year-old Parisian told French newspaper Le Parisien: “It’s a disaster but we will fix it,… We do not have a choice. We are in Easter week. At the end, there will be a resurrection.”
UPDATE 1930 — “The soul of France bleeds at the beginning of Holy Week”
Conservative MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the leader of the Debout La France party, reacted with shock to the fire writing, ” see the flames and the thick smoke above Paris, I have tears in my eyes.”
The outspoken critic of mass migration, who ran as the Prime Minister candidate for populist Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election second round in 2017, added, “The soul of France bleeds at the beginning of Holy Week. Nearly 1000 years of our civilization is being consumed before our eyes.”
UPDATE 1915 — Roof over the nave has totally burnt away
This dramatic image shows the eastern end of the Cathedral, which has now totally lost its roof:
The image is a stark contrast with a similar view of the same end of the church less than an hour ago:
The fire may now threaten the integrity of the cathedral’s famous rose window:
UPDATE 1905 — The spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral has collapsed
Eyewitnesses to the huge fire engulfing Nore-Dame recorded the moment the central spire collapsed. The fire has now spread to the bell towers:
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
The splintered remains of the spire can be seen in this Getty image:
UPDATE 1855 — Fire may have started during restoration work
Until Monday’s fire, Notre-Dame Cathedral was undergoing major restoration work. France’s AFP reported three days ago:
Sixteen bronze statues briefly took to the skies over Paris after they were removed from the Notre-Dame cathedral to undergo restoration work.
Tourists at the world-famous landmark were left stunned on Thursday as the statues — representing the 12 apostles and the four evangelists from the New Testament — were lifted off the spire of the cathedral by crane.
“What’s unique is that it’s the first time we’ve seen them up close since they were set up by Viollet-le-Duc in the 1860s,” Marie-Helene Didier, who is in charge of the renovation work, told AFP.
Its spire, like the rest of the gothic edifice, is undergoing a 11-million-euro ($12.4-million) overhaul financed by the French state to repair damage inflicted by time, pollution and the weather.
“Extraordinary,” said Sofiane, an onlooker from London, as the statues flew through piercing blue skies suspended from a giant 100-metre (300-foot) crane. “I’ll never see anything like it again.”
The statues will be put on display inside the cathedral and will travel two-by-two to a specialised restorer in the Dordogne area of southwest France.
Once all have been renovated, they will be put back to their position staring out over the City of Light in 2022.
The spire mentioned in the report now appears to be a complete loss, and firefighters at the scene say part of the roof has now collapsed.
Considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame de Paris, on the bank of the Seine river, dates back to the 12th century and is one of the major landmarks of Paris is recognised by its flying buttresses and its large, round north rose window. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III.
Images taken by press photographers from the roof of the church just last week show the significant extent of the restoration work taking place on the nearly 700-year old structure. Scaffolding can be seen spanning the roof in preparation for the removal of 16 copper statues of the Apostles ahead of their restoration. The statues were ‘flown’ out through the use of straps and a crane on Friday.
Firefighters believe the blaze is “potentially linked” to the renovation work of the building, reports Le Figaro.
Restoration work can be a particularly vulnerable time for historic buildings when power tools and other potential sources of combustion come into close contact with dry timbers and other building materials. The United Kingdom suffered the near total loss of a significant historic building, but on a smaller scale, in 2017 when the building thought to be the oldest hotel in the country — and one of the oldest in the world — burnt down during building work taking place on another historic building next door, which spread.
UPDATE 1845 — President Trump calls on French authorities to “act quickly” to save historic treasure
The world watches on as one of the most important buildings in Western Christianity burns, including U.S. President Donald Trump who has suggested a major intervention to quell the flames. He took to Twitter to write: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
A police force commander told a Le Figaro reporter on the scene that the fire “will burn a long time.”
Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has spoken out: “A terrible fire is underway at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The fire brigade is trying to control the flames. We are mobilised on site in close connection with the Diocese of Paris. I invite each and everyone to respect the perimeter of security.”
UPDATE 1840 — Videos from the scene
Footage of the fire, which is now consuming the historic central spire of the Cathedral, is spreading on social media:
— Solveig Godeluck (@Solwii) April 15, 2019
The fire at Notre Dame looks horrific pic.twitter.com/buYTwh2vDn
— Alan White (@aljwhite) April 15, 2019
— Luke Baker (@BakerLuke) April 15, 2019
This story is developing, more follows