A fire at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France has destroyed most of the roof and collapsed the church’s central spire. Eyewitness videos show smoke and fire engulfing the jewel of Gothic architecture.
The blaze broke out in the scaffolding around the spire on Monday afternoon, Paris firefighters confirmed, adding that a major operation to tackle the fire is underway.
The medieval cathedral is one of the main attractions of the French capital, seeing 12 million tourists a year, more than the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
The incident took place as the jewel of the Gothic architecture was undergoing a major overhaul costing €11 million, with the work scheduled to be finished around 2022.
Notre Dame’s roof and the central spire have been destroyed by the flames. The fire has also damaged some of the famous stained glass windows, painstakingly re-created in the 1800’s.
There are unconfirmed reports in local media that the priceless relics stored inside the cathedral, including the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross, have not been damaged. The cathedral’s reliquary has not been evacuated, however.
Last week, 16 bronze statues representing 12 apostles and four evangelists from the New Testament were lifted off the spire of the cathedral by crane. Some scaffolding could be seen close to the flames leaping out near the cathedral’s spire, before it toppled over.
The spire itself was made of wood and covered with lead. It has long been in a bad shape as elements of the construction dating back to the 12th century have been damaged by weather, pollution and time.
Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163. It was extensively restored in the mid-1800’s, after Victor Hugo’s novel about the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo revived the public interest in the cathedral.
Of all the relics kept at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris (Notre-Dame de Paris), the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross are the most revered. Their fate was in question as the 850-year-old church went up in flames.
Relics believed to be a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, as well as the Crown of Thorns he wore, have been kept @ the cathedral for centuries.
The braided circle held together by golden thread has about 70 or so thorns attached. The relics were obtained from the Byzantine Empire in 1238, and brought to Paris by King Louis IX.
Notre-Dame was damaged and desecrated during and after the 1789 French Revolution, but was somewhat repaired for the December 1804 coronation of Emperor Napoleon I.
Victor Hugo’s novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1831) revived the popular interest in the landmark, and restoration work began in 1845. Its famous stained glass windows – first built in 1225 – and exterior statuary, were rebuilt at this time.
Additional cleaning and restoration work was done in the 1960’s and again in the 1990’s.
Construction on Notre Dame was initiated in 1163 A.D. by King Louis VII, an ambitious French king who wanted to put Paris on the map of Europe with a huge new church.
While some of Louis’ other ventures, such as the Second Crusade, didn’t shape up so well, Notre Dame went up fairly quickly for a stone cathedral in the Middle Ages, being mostly finished by 1260 but receiving its finishing touches in 1345.
The cathedral has been a target of several terrorist plots in recent years. A car filled with explosives was found outside Notre Dame in September 2016.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point Religious News 2019.