Paris Holds Vigil To Mourn Notre Dame Fire Damage, Macron Vows Swift Reconstruction
Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET
A day after flames leaped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris sparking fears the beloved building could be consumed, Parisians sang and prayed in processions through the streets and held vigils Tuesday evening close to the church constructed more than eight centuries ago.
The cathedral stood blackened with much of its roof gone, its spire collapsed and charred rubble inside, but it remained standing, its main structure and two towers spared.
The leader of the Catholic Church put into words the duality of the feeling Tuesday: the pain of the loss paired with the promise of rebirth.
"Today we unite in prayer with the people of France, as we wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction," Pope Francis tweeted.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said that Notre Dame will be rebuilt "more beautiful than ever" and that he wants to see it done within five years. "We can do it and we will come together," he said.
Nouveau point de situation avec le ministre de la Culture, @franckriester : le feu est éteint, la structure tient bon malgré des signes de fragilité qui nécessitent encore des travaux de sécurisation qui dureront 48h. #notredameparis pic.twitter.com/b1u4a3otmB— Laurent Nunez (@NunezLaurent) April 16, 2019
Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez said that while immediate work is needed to secure the building, "the structure is holding up well, despite signs of fragility, necessitating security work."
Construction first began on the Catholic cathedral in 1163. For 850 years, the house of God was a fixture of the Paris skyline and so it also became a house of man, "part of our French destiny," as Macron tweeted Monday.
Notre Dame's destiny was in question through the night as hundreds of firefighters worked to put out the blaze. They managed to contain the flames early Tuesday morning local time.
By midmorning, the fire was fully extinguished, and an investigation into the cause began in earnest.
Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz told reporters that the fire was discovered in the attic's framework and is believed to have been accidental. Investigators in the early stages of a probe, he said, have detected no signs of arson. But Heitz cautioned the investigation will be "long" and "complex" as dozens of investigators work to uncover what happened. Part of their job is interviewing workers who were engaged in a multi-million-dollar restoration project of the cathedral before the fire broke out around 6 p.m. local time Monday.
Nobody was killed. Officials said two police officers and one firefighter were slightly injured.
But the toll taken on the priceless works of art within the cathedral, including paintings, tapestries, statuary and famed stained-glass windows, could be worse.
A damage assessment is underway with national, local and church authorities working together, UNESCO said in a statement. Notre Dame was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
French Minister of Culture Franck Riester said some of the most significant treasures had been saved, including a crown of thorns that Jesus is thought to have worn during crucifixion.
Le Clou de la Passion, la tunique de Saint-Louis, le fragment du Bois de La Croix, la Sainte Couronne, la Discipline de Saint-Louis ainsi que d’autres pièces du trésor de #Notre_Dame_de_Paris ont quitté l’Hôtel de Ville de #Paris pour rejoindre le @MuseeLouvre. pic.twitter.com/N6Dcfukihm— Franck Riester (@franckriester) April 16, 2019
Smoke-damaged paintings were being shipped to the Louvre Museum for restoration. Riester said the full resources of the French state were being mobilized in the rehabilitation effort.
In a remarkable boon, workers had already removed 16 religious statues attached to the spire as part of the cathedral's restoration, the first time in a century the statues had come down, reports The Associated Press.
Built on Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement, with its rib vaults and flying buttresses, Notre Dame is widely considered to embody the best of French Gothic architecture.
Notre Dame has survived other disasters over the centuries. Even as the monarchy fell, Notre Dame withstood extensive damage inflicted during the French Revolution.
Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can. pic.twitter.com/SpMEvv1BzB— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 15, 2019
And it has drawn visitors in droves. The cathedral says it welcomes 13 million a year, an average of 30,000 people a day.
As people around the world watched as the cathedral went up in flames, those who had gazed upon it in person posted their memories and images on social media.
They have also been invited to contribute to the cathedral's rebuilding. Several GoFundMe pages have sprung up.
I’d like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the French nation, also as citizen of Gdańsk, 90% destroyed and burnt, later rebuilt. You will also rebuild your cathedral!— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) April 16, 2019
From Strasbourg, French capital of the EU, I call on all 28 States to take part in this task.#NotreDame
And an international campaign was launched as a central place for donors to contribute.
European Council President Donald Tusk called on all 28 members of the European Union to join in on the effort.
President Trump offered condolences to France, reaffirming the alliance between the two countries.
"We remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame's bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil," the White House said in a statement. "Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!"
Macron said in his address Tuesday that the fire can be turned into an opportunity to come together. "We will act and we will succeed."
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