Notre-Dame cathedral on fire

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Words:
Isabelle Priest

Veronique de Viguerie captures the cathedral mid-blaze as those watching on from the ground or television feared there would be little left by dawn

Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the world’s most important and visited cathedrals (completed 1345), caught light on the evening of Monday 18 April. Here it is, photographed by Veronique de Viguerie, as the sun sets over the city and fire engulfs the roof.

The fire is believed to have started in the attic at around 18:50 local time, spreading rapidly across the upper structures of the building. By the time this image was taken, the spire above the crossing – first built in the 13th century but recreated in the 19th century – had collapsed and firefighters were concentrating their efforts on extinguishing flames in the northern bell tower to prevent further major destruction.

As the sun rose next morning most of the cathedral, under renovation when the fire started, had been saved, and people breathed a sigh of relief for what could have been much worse. The roof sculptures had been taken away for conservation only days before. Three main rose windows were saved; the bell towers and a lot of the artwork had survived and so had much of the vaulted stone underside of the attic, although the condition was yet to be carefully analysed.

Nevertheless, French president Emmanuel Macron pledged within hours to have this icon of France and religious faith restored to glory within five years, and by Wednesday the prime minister Edouard Philippe had already launched an international competition that might design a new spire ‘that reflects the techniques and challenges of our era’. At the time of going to press, the restoration cause had received more than €1 billion in private donations.

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