Paris: Notre-Dame Cathedral Burns as Historic Building Undergoes Restoration Work

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.

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. – A fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. – A major fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky, the fire service said. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year, where renovations are currently underway. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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:

Firefighters works after a spectacular blaze that ravaged the roof of a 19th century basilica in Nantes, western France on june 15, 2015. The fire in Nantes is “probably linked to waterproofing work that was taking place on the roof,” said the city’s chief fire officer, who added the blaze had been “contained” by mid-morning. The back part of the basilica has been seriously damaged and some of the wooden beams have given way, authorities said. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET

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.”

AFP

notre dame

FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

People watch the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burning in central Paris on April 15, 2019. - A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

People watch the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burning in central Paris on April 15, 2019. – A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019,  (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP) 

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:

notre dame

FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

The image is a stark contrast with a similar view of the same end of the church less than an hour ago:

notre dame

FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

The fire may now threaten the integrity of the cathedral’s famous rose window:

TOPSHOT - Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. - A fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said.Images posted on social media showed flames and huge clouds of smoke billowing above the roof of the gothic cathedral, the most visited historic monument in Europe. (Photo by Patrick ANIDJAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK ANIDJAR/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. – A fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said.Images posted on social media showed flames and huge clouds of smoke billowing above the roof of the gothic cathedral, the most visited historic monument in Europe. (Photo by Patrick ANIDJAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK ANIDJAR/AFP/Getty Images)

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:

The splintered remains of the spire can be seen in this Getty image:

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. - A major fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky, the fire service said. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year, where renovations are currently underway. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. -FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

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.

The Associated Press

Fire torches top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris / AP IMAGES

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.

A crane lifts one of 16 copper statues, sitting 50 meters above the ground, off the Notre-Dame-de-Paris Cathedral to be taken for restoration on April 11, 2019 in the French capital Paris. – Using a 120 meter crane at the foot of the cathedral, the sixteen statues, the 12 apostles and the 4 evangelists, which sit around the spire of the cathedral are being removed to be sent to Perigueux, in southwest France for restoration.  BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

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!”

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.”

Smokes ascends as flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019 afternoon, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

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:

Flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019 afternoon, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019 afternoon, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

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