The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, is out. Firefighters declared success Tuesday after more than 12 hours battling the inferno engulfing Paris’ famous church building. The fire claimed its spire and roof, but spared its twin bell towers and flying buttresses.
The interior of the lofty French Gothic worship space is blackened. Wet rubble and ash cover the pews and floor below. Paris officials say the famous 18th-century organ that boasts 8,000 pipes appears to have survived the blaze. Many bronze statues—including 12 apostles and four evangelists (or gospel-writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had been removed from the building just last week. They were already stored off-site as part of the restoration work that had been going on at the cathedral.
At dawn Tuesday morning, the 800-year-old landmark swarmed with building specialists and architects. A first priority, after ensuring that all smoldering residue has been put out, is to assess the stability of the remaining stone structure.
“The task is—now the risk of fire has been put aside—about the building, how the structure will resist,” says Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez.
At this time, officials consider the fire that began around 6:00pm on Monday of Holy Week an accident. They think it was possibly a result of the restoration work at the global architectural treasure.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz says an investigation into the cause will be “long and complex.” Fifty investigators are working on the probe, he says. They will interview workers from five companies hired for the renovations to the cathedral’s roof, where the flames first broke out.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been pledged to fund rebuilding the beloved cathedral. It won’t be exactly the same as it was. Modern technology and safety regulations will be employed in the eventual reconstruction. Additionally, the roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because, “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century,” says Bertrand de Feydeau. He is vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation).
Meanwhile, Paris and much of the world mourns the damage.
Notre Dame Cathedral was built as a monument to God’s greatness and holiness—and a space for humans, in their smallness, to offer His worship together. The soaring interior space pointed the worshiper heavenward, to look with awe and wonder and humility away from Earth. Even the footprint of the building is a reminder of salvation and worship. Transverse sections intersect to make a cruciform—or cross—shape.
While people talk of restoration, believers know that such work is always in God’s ultimate plan too. He promises to restore the ruins of all that sin and its effects caused to His creation. See Isaiah 61 for some encouragement for those who put their trust in Him.
(Notre Dame Cathedral before the fire, left, and during. The blaze consumed the spire and roof. Experts today are evaluating the structural integrity of the remaining building. AP Photo)