Paris’s Historic Notre-Dame Cathedral Has Caught Fire

15 April 2019

Paris is a city like no other, and much of this has to do with its spectacular architecture. But today, one of its most iconic structures caught fire and its future is at stake.

Fire alarms first rang Monday evening as commuters rushed past the Notre-Dame cathedral on their way home. Yet upon seeing the smoke, and then later the billowing flames, a large crowd gathered in horror as it watched the spire of the famous cathedral collapse as the fire grew in size and intensity. According to The Washington Post, heat from the flames could be felt from across the River Seine, several hundred feet from the cathedral.

While it remains unclear what started the fire, the cathedral has been under a $6.8 million renovation project (including the now-collapsed spire). Many officials are considering the blaze an accident relating to construction. Arson has also not been ruled out, however, as there has been an uptick in the number of Catholic churches that have been victims of vandalism and arson over the past few years.

The medieval Catholic church, which is located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, was originally completed in 1260. Parts of the church were destroyed during the French Revolution. A quarter-century-long renovation took place, finally ending in 1870. The church remained relatively untouched until the end of the 20th century when restoration crews set out to clean and maintain parts of the structure. The spire was not part of the original structure, but a replacement for a previous spire that was dismantled. Not only is the church an icon of French Gothic architecture, but many notable events took place within its hallowed walls. In 1431, Henry VI of England was made king of France inside Notre-Dame. It was nearly four-hundred years later when Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor there in 1804, which was depicted in a famous painting by Jacques-Louis David entitled The Coronation of Napoleon (1807). Just after the turn of the century, in 1909, Joan of Arc was beatified in the cathedral by Pope Pius X.

As images of the fire engulfing the historic church circulated the globe through social media and news outlets, it’s difficult not to draw correlations with Brazil’s heartbreaking museum fire in 2018. Similar to the National Museum of Brazil, Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral is woven into the cultural thread of the city. In a tweet, French president Emmanuel Macron expressed his sentiments: “Notre-Dame of Paris preyed by the flames. The sorrow of an entire nation. Out thoughts with all Catholics and French people. Like all our compatriots, I’m sad tonight to see this part of ourselves burn.” This is a developing story.

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