Many relics saved as fire devastates cathedral
France has vowed that the spire of Notre-Dame cathedral will rise again after fire ripped through the iconic symbol of Europe’s Christian identity. Firefighters have been praised for entering the burning building to save some of the most important relics in Christendom including the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Christ during his passion and death.
There were emotional scenes overnight as many people – particularly young people – prayed the rosary and sang Marian hymns while watching firefighters battle to save the icon of the Faith.
Pope Francis said this morning that he shared the sadness of the French people mourning the devastation of the cathedral and expressed the hope that it would be restored to remain a symbol of the faith of their forefathers.
“I associate myself with your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the French,” Francis said in a message to the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit.
“This disaster seriously damaged a historic building. But I realise that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their convictions,” he said.
Hundreds of millions of euro have been pledged to help rebuild Notre-Dame after the fire partially destroyed the 850-year-old building’s roof and caused its spire to collapse.
Firefighters who worked through the night managed to save the main stone structure, including its two towers.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear.
Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said his office was “favouring the theory of an accident”, but had assigned 50 people to work on what he believed would be a “long” and “complex” investigation.
For centuries the building has been considered the heart of Catholic life in France, a site of pilgrimage for people around the world and home to many priceless religious relics.
Emergency teams formed a human chain at the height of the fire to rescue valuable artwork and religious items, including what is said to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus before his crucifixion, which were stored inside the cathedral built in the 12th and 13th centuries.
A tunic, which King Louis IX is said to have worn when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris, was also saved.
French Billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group that owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, pledged €100m towards rebuilding Notre-Dame, AFP news agency reports.
Another €200m was pledged by Bernard Arnault’s family and their company LVMH – a business empire which includes Louis Vuitton and Sephora – on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters news agency.
Total, the French oil giant, has also pledged €100m.
The French charity Fondation du Patrimoine is launching an international appeal for funds for the cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site.