Huge blaze badly damages historic Notre-Dame Cathedral
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Huge blaze badly damages historic Notre-Dame Cathedral

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Hundreds of millions of Euros have already been pledged to reconstruction, and priceless works of art and religious artefacts have been saved, after a major fire broke out at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday.

The 850-year-old Gothic building – a Unesco World Heritage site – is one of the world’s most recognisable attractions, welcoming more than 13 million visitors each year.

The heritage attraction had been undergoing renovation work after concerns were raised that the iconic structure could become unstable after cracks were found in its walls. It's thought that the fire, which engulfed the roof and spire yesterday (15 April) may have begun as a result of the renovation work.

Nine hours after the fire started – hours in which 500 firefighters courageously tackled the blaze – it was declared under control. There were fires in the stone towers of the medieval building, but these were successfully extinguished before they could spread.

French interior minister Laurent Nuñez said that had fire crews not entered the building "without a doubt it would have collapsed". Emergency teams rescued artworks and religious items, including what is said to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus before his crucifixion, and a tunic said to have been worn by King Louis IX when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris.

Following the blaze, French president Emmanual Macron vowed that the cathedral would be rebuilt. The French charity Fondation du Patrimoine is launching an international appeal for funds. Billionaire business leaders have reportedly pledged huge sums already.

While a tragic event, it may be possible to rebuild what has been lost to the exact same specifications – particularly since the cathedral was digitally scanned in meticulous 3D by architectural historian Andrew Tallon in recent years. What can't be replaced is the almost one thousand-year-old roof beams that were lost in the blaze.

"It was one of the oldest – until today – surviving roofs of that kind," said architectural historian Robert Bork in Wired. "It’s incomparable."

In the UK, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, commented: "Its 850 year history has seen Notre Dame withstand revolutionary change and world wars. Now it seems it has been laid low by an accidental fire during renovation works.

"That this should happen at the time of year when Christians focus on the passion and death of Christ seems strange and sad. The Church lives the passion. But the great cathedral will rise again, just as Christians everywhere will next Sunday on Easter Day celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ."

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Hundreds of millions of Euros have already been pledged to reconstruction, and priceless works of art and religious artefacts have been saved, after a major fire broke out at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday.
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