THE major fire that broke out at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, was fully extinguished on Tuesday morning. The fire caused its spire to collapse and threatened most of its roof and stained glass.
Firefighters had launched a huge operation to try and contain the fire, which is one of France’s most important cathedrals, and one of the world’s most-visited religious buildings.
Officials have suggested that the fire was linked to restoration work on the Gothic cathedral, which dates from 1260.
An inquiry was launched into the cause of the “involuntary” fire by the Paris prosecutor, and investigators will assess the stability of the building on Tuesday.
Franck Riester, France’s culture minister, said: “The principal structure is saved, but the situation is still precarious. We’re optimistic because the two belfries were saved.”
On Monday evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote on Twitter: “Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic Notre-Dame fire — and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous.”
On Tuesday morning, he wrote: “In November 1940, Coventry Cathedral burned. It was rebuilt to the glory of God and stands today a symbol of hope and resurrection. May also rise again in the power of God.”
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, wrote on Twitter on Monday evening that he was “deeply shocked to see . . . [Notre-Dame Cathedral] ablaze. With prayers for the people of France as this precious religious building and symbol of national identity is ravaged by flames.”
The RC Archbishop of Paris, the Most Revd Michel Aupetit, told BFMTV: “When we arrived yesterday evening, we wanted to cry and people were crying around us. Notre-Dame is a symbol, more than a symbol it is the soul of France.
“Notre-Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité , centre of Paris, is charged with history with events through the centuries. It draws people, they come to look and they respect the place and they come to pray”
Many of the religious treasures and works of art were saved by fire officers, Mr Riester confirmed.
The President of France, Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was thinking of “all Catholics and all French people”. He wrote: “Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
“It’s part of our French destiny,” he said. “Tomorrow a national fund will be launched, and well beyond our borders.”
A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis had “seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world”.
The Church of England’s Director of Cathedrals and Church Buildings, Becky Clark, said on Monday evening: “The fire and the destruction it has caused are heart-breaking. We stand together in prayer with all who love Notre Dame: its worshipping community, those who have visited, and those who only know it from afar. We understand their sense of loss, and the uplifting connection people feel with cathedrals and churches the world over.
“But no matter the destruction, the spirit of what it means to be a cathedral can and does survive such catastrophes.”