Was it just a nightmare? The following morning, the devastating fire in the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the symbol of Paris, is still unbelievable. Until late at night, residents and other onlookers watched mute, repeatedly photographed the silhouette distorted by the fire. The famous spire built by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc during the renovation in the 19th century has fallen victim to the flames and collapsed. But the two bell towers as well as the main structure of the Gothic building withstood the fiery conflagration. On the Place Saint-Michel spontaneous young Frenchmen gathered, many students from the Latin Quarter, and joined in “Ave Maria” songs. The flames have awakened the Christian memory of France. Retired literary pope Bernard Pivot pleaded, “Mary, why do not you go in? Why do you allow the most beautiful house in France to be eaten by the flames? ”
Shortly after 5 o’clock in the morning, task manager Gabriel Plus announces that the fire has been extinguished and the last hot spots are under control. Nearly 500 firefighters had been tirelessly fighting the flames all night. The public prosecutor, who has initiated investigations into negligent arson during the night, wants to have construction workers interrogated on Tuesday morning. Because the fire broke out at 18:50 in the attic below the spire, exactly that component on which the renovation work is currently focused.
There is a suspicion that welding work on the metal structure may have resulted in a smoldering fire that spread after the construction workers had finished work. Three days ago, the Archbishopric of Paris had shown spectacular footage of how the figures of the Twelve Apostles and the four evangelists were taken to safety by a special crane at dizzying heights. The renovation of the cathedral, begun in 1163 and completed 150 years later, was decided four years ago.
president Emmanuel Macron, who had to cancel his televised announcement for further reform at short notice, has promised to rebuild the cathedral Notre-Dame. “We’ll build it again tomorrow,” the president said shortly before midnight. The state conservation authority is to organize a fundraising campaign. Macron invited “the best craftsmen and artists from all over the world” to participate in the reconstruction.
The historic building had survived wars and revolutions virtually unscathed. During the July Revolution of 1830, the inner nave was devastated. This gave writer Victor Hugo the impetus for his novel “Notre Dame de Paris”, which bears the title “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in German. Hugo’s wish was for the people to become aware of the architectural treasure that they pass on to the cathedral from generation to generation. This collective consciousness has not disappeared even in largely secularized France to this day. The most important historical events in the cathedral learn every schoolchild, for example, when at the end of the Hundred Years War in 1430 the nine-year-old Henry VI, King of England, was anointed as King of France.
The marriage of the Protestant Henri de Navarre with the Catholic Marie de Valois (called Margot) in Notre-Dame in 1572 formed the pretext for the bloody Bartholomew’s night. Unforgettable is also the ceremony in December 1804, in which Napoleon sat down in the cathedral in the presence of Pope Pius VII himself the imperial crown. In 1996, the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl took a seat in the cathedral to attend the funeral service for his friend, the long-time French President François Mitterrand. The tears rolled out of the corner of his eye with emotion. Notre-Dame has remained a place where the French are drawn to when they want to reflect on their roots. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, they gathered spontaneously on the forecourt and at fairs inside.
The extent of the fire damage is still unknown. The French chief architect of listed buildings, Philippe Villeneuve, was heard on Tuesday with reassuring words. “The historical treasure is saved,” he said. The biggest loss is the 13th century roof truss made of oak, which burned down completely. The main cultural treasures from the nave have been saved, including the crown of thorns of Christ, one of the most precious Christian relics, the King Louis IX. bought from the Emperor of Constantinople.