Jean Francois Raffaelli
In Front of Ground Zero – France
IL d’ CITE
On 15 April 2019, just before 18:50 CEST, a fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. By the time the fire was extinguished fifteen hours later, the building’s spire and roof had collapsed and its interior, upper walls, and windows had been severely damaged; even more extensive damage to the interior was prevented by the stone vaulted ceiling, which largely contained the burning roof as it collapsed. Many works of art and other treasures were evacuated early in the emergency, but many others were damaged or destroyed. The cathedral’s two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows, suffered little or no damage. No person, firefighter or civilian, was killed by the fire.
President Emmanuel Macron promised the country would restore the cathedral and launched a fundraising campaign which brought in pledges of €800 million within 24 hours. It has been estimated that restoration could require twenty years or more.
Construction of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris”) began in the 12th century, using stonework for the walls and vault and wood for the main roofs and spire. The original flèche (spire) lasted until 1383, its replacement was lost in a 1630 fire, and a third was damaged by wind and removed between 1786 and 1791; the spire lost in the fire, made of lead-covered oak and designed by Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, was added in the mid-19th century. The cathedral was listed as part of the “Paris, Banks of the Seine” UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
In recent years the cathedral suffered significantly from crumbling stonework, primarily due to environmental pollution; for example, acid rain attacks limestone. In 2014, the Ministry of Culture estimated the cost of the renovation work needed by the cathedral at €150 million.
In 2016, the Archdiocese of Paris launched an appeal to raise €100 million over the following five to ten years to meet the costs of maintenance and restoration. At the time of the fire, it was undergoing renovations on the spire, estimated to cost €6 million. Steel scaffolding had been erected around the roofs.
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