On April 15th, 2019, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France went up in flames. The cathedral served as a prominent symbol of France for a little over 850 years, and the people of Paris were devastated to see the iconic building become engulfed in flames.
Thankfully, the fire didn’t destroy the whole cathedral, but there still was a large portion of building that was ruined. There had been renovations going on in the cathedral, as its Gothic architecture meant that the building was lined with wood and weak support beams that were almost 900 years old.
Church spokesperson André Finot told French media that the entire wooden interior, which dates back to the 13th century, had burned and was likely to be wholly destroyed. “Everything is burning; nothing will remain from the frame,” Finot said.
Although what caused the fire is still unknown, whatever it was must have happened in the attic, likely due to the renovations. The source of the fire, whether it was big or small, only needed to catch onto one piece of wood for the cathedral to go up in flames. The cause has not been determined, but the prosecutor’s office said it believes the fire was started accidentally. The fire completely burnt through all of the support of the upper half of the cathedral and sent the spire collapsing down. Two thirds of the roof have burnt down as well. The fire was so massive that it took around 400 firefighters to tackle all the damage caused by those flames.
Notre Dame was not only a place that attracted tourists, but also a building filled with rich history of both classic art and deep spirituality. Thankfully, nothing major other than the rosette window has been destroyed. Any artwork or religious relics were immediately saved. The Crown of Thorns, said to have been worn by Jesus Christ before the crucifixion, and the tunic of St. Louis were both saved, according to the cathedral’s rector.
As for people, there have been no reported deaths or severe injuries. There were only three people harmed, two police officers and a firefighter, but they only suffered minor injuries. French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral and said he will seek international help to do so. He said that, “A national fundraising campaign would be launched,” and called on the world’s “greatest talents” to assist in the effort. Because the cathedral held such high importance to the people of France, everyone is doing the best they can to help rebuild what has been destroyed.
The Cathedral wasn’t just a symbol of France, but also a symbol of faith. “Thinking of all the Catholics and all the French people. Like all our citizens, I am sad to see this part of ourselves burn tonight,” tweeted Macron, who canceled a planned speech after news of the fire.
This cathedral has helped shaped the identity of people of both Paris and Catholicism. Catholics all over the world have traveled to Notre Dame to get a chance to see the beautiful building and celebrate together in Mass, deepening their relationship with God.
A Parisian citizen referred to the cathedral as, “The historical heart of the faith in France.”
“This is only a monument. But, in any case, it touches us deeply; it’s a place where so many have gathered. It’s historical,” the citizen told BuzzFeed News. “It’s like the death of a loved one: It’s sad and it’s a shame and it’s magnificent, and in the end it’s a loss.”
It was more than just a building to most people: it was a part of their spirituality and French residents and Catholics alike felt like a part of themselves had been lost upon hearing the news about the cathedral.