Billionaire says he’ll help with cathedral’s reconstruction
French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering luxury group, has pledged some $113 million toward rebuilding the Notre Dame Cathedral, according to a statement obtained by the AFP news agency.
Kering owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, according to BBC News.
Cause under investigation
Authorities have not yet released any information on the cause of the fire and said it would be investigated. The fire may potentially involve renovation work that was being carried out at the site, the fire service said. Extensive scaffolding covered a portion of the roof as part of the $6.8 million project before the fire broke out.
The Paris prosecutors’ office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating it as an accident, The Associated Press reports.
French President Macron: “We will rebuild”
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on Monday night. Macron called the fire a “terrible tragedy” and confirmed that the cathedral’s stone facade and two main towers avoided collapsing amid the destruction.
“I’m telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together. This is probably part of the French destiny. And we will do it in the next years. Starting tomorrow, a national donation scheme will be started that will extend beyond our borders,” Macron said.
First look inside the burning cathedral
The first photos have been released showing the damage inside Notre Dame Cathedral caused by the fire Monday. One picture shows debris still smoldering around the altar, but the surrounding stonework appears intact.
Another photo shows portions of the intricately carved vaulted ceiling collapsed as flames continue to burn above.
Fire a “tragedy for the world”
Christophe Girard, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of culture, said the massive fire at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral is a “tragedy for the world.” He spoke with CBSN as the fire continued to burn, and said that some priceless paintings and other artifacts have been saved.
Dramatic photos of fire’s destruction
Dramatic videos and photos spread across social media on Monday showing the roof and spire of the nearly 900-year-old cathedral engulfed in flames and massive amounts of smoke billowing up from its roof.
The spire and roof collapsed, and the cathedral’s world-famous stained glass windows were destroyed.
The Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine where the cathedral is located, was evacuated. Thousands of onlookers gathered along the banks of the river to watch the awful scene.
Priceless art and artifacts inside
Some of the treasures inside Notre Dame were reported saved, although officials have yet to release a full inventory of what was saved from the fire and what was lost. A centuries-old crown of thorns made from reeds and gold, and the tunic worn by Saint Louis, a 13th century king of France, were safely retrieved, Notre Dame’s top administrative cleric, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said, according to Reuters. But firefighters had struggled to take down some of the cathedral’s large paintings in time, he said.
Notre Dame, or Our Lady, is considered the most famous Gothic cathedral ever built. Its picturesque stained-glass rose windows were made of hundreds of panes, depicting various biblical images like apostles and angels. Gargoyles and statues surround the cathedral.
Vatican expresses “great shock and sadness”
The Vatican expressed “great shock and sadness” about the fire at Notre Dame, which occurred during Holy Week leading up to Good Friday and Easter. It called the cathedral “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
In a statement, the Vatican said, “We express closeness to the French Catholics and the people of Paris and we assure our prayers for the firefighters and those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation.”
President Trump: “It’s part of our culture”
President Trump commented on the fire Monday afternoon as he attended a roundtable conference in Minnesota. He called it “a terrible sight to behold.”
“It’s one of the great treasures of the world,” he said. “It’s part of our culture, it’s part of our lives. That is a truly great cathedral and I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, and there is… no cathedral in the world like it. It is a terrible scene.”
The president added, “It looks like it’s burning to the ground.”
Former President Obama on mourning and rebuilding
Former President Barack Obama posted a photo of his family visiting Notre Dame along with a message that said, “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.”
Notre Dame Cathedral’s epic history
Notre Dame was constructed in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a worldwide Parisian icon and the location of some of the most important moments in the history of France. Henry VI of England was crowned inside the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France inside the cathedral in 1804.
The cathedral receives nearly 13 million visitors a year and is home to exquisite religious artifacts, paintings, sculptures and other priceless works of art.
It had been undergoing renovations after cracks began to appear in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable. CBS News’ Roxana Saberi reported in March 2018 that years of rain, snow and pollution had eroded the flying buttresses that prop the cathedral up.
James Shepherd, director of preservation and facilities at the Washington National Cathedral, spoke with CBSN on Monday about Notre Dame’s epic history.
“That’s 800 years of history of people pilgrimaging there, and worshiping there, and the accumulation of culture,” Shepherd said by phone. “All of that will have to be taken into consideration as they try to repair this church and save it after this devastating fire.”
Shepherd spoke of Notre Dame’s “stunning and exclusive stained-glass windows,” which appear to have been destroyed in the fire. He called them “absolutely priceless and some of the best examples of European stained-glass windows.”
“This is a culturally devastating moment for the city of Paris, the country and the world,” Shepherd said.
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