Paris, France: Firefighters have salvaged the Notre Dame Cathedral’s main structure. What’s next? Resurrection. French President Emmanuel Macron promised late Monday to rebuild the monumental 12th-century cathedral, one of the most recognizable buildings in Paris, while religious leaders across the world shared stories of the resilience of places of worship.
All was not lost at Notre Dame. The religious statues that sat atop the cathedral were recently removed as part of a $6.8 million renovation of the towering spire that fell to the ground in Monday’s blaze.
Some of the sacred artifacts housed at the cathedral are safe, too, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Monday night on Twitter.
“But no matter the destruction, the spirit of what it means to be a cathedral can and does survive such catastrophes,” Becky Clark, The Church of England’s director of cathedrals and church buildings, said in a statement.
Among English churches that have risen from the ashes are the spire at Lincoln, which collapsed in the 1500s; St. Paul’s, which burned in the Great Fire of London; and the Coventry, which was bombed in World War II.
“All have been rebuilt, sometimes taking on new forms, to stand as reminders of eternity and resurrection which are the foundation of the Christian faith,” Clark said.
Paris Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet announced late Monday that operations had changed from an emergency response to monitoring and mop-up. Macron said a national fundraiser to restore the capital’s iconic landmark will begin Tuesday, and he called on the world’s “greatest talents” to help.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama echoed Macron on Twitter.
“Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief,” Obama said. “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.”
Macron credited firefighters’ “courage” and “great professionalism” in saving Notre Dame’s facade and two landmark towers. Gallet said two-thirds of the roofing was ravaged, however.
“The worst has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won,” Macron said.
The copper statues that usually set atop the cathedral were removed just last week. Workers sent the 3-meter-tall statues representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists to southwestern France as part of the planned restoration project.
Salvage efforts to recover precious artifacts were underway Monday. The “treasure” of the cathedral has not been touched so far, Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told the Le Figaro newspaper.
“Thanks to the @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents, the Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place,” Hidalgo tweeted.
Monday’s blaze is “potentially linked” to renovation work and preliminary accounts said it appeared to be accidental, officials said.
EARLIER: Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris Engulfed In Flames
Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world’s most famous churches, erupted in flames Monday in Paris. Video showed flames leaping through the roof and dark smoke billowing into the sky. Observers gasped as the spire fell.
Police in Paris asked people to avoid the area to facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles. Fire trucks could be seen speeding through Paris towards the scene on the Ile de la Cite — an island in the Seine at the heart of Paris.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called the fire “terrible” and said firefighters are trying to control the flames.
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron canceled an address to the nation that was planned. “Notre-Dame de Paris is in flames,” he tweeted. “Emotion of an entire nation. Thinking of all Catholics and all French people. Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of us burn.”
There was no immediate word on the cause of the blaze, but the structure has been undergoing a $6.8 million renovation project, including work on its spire.
Located on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River, the soaring Gothic structure dates to the 13th century and was completed in the 15th century.
— Mélanie Gouby (@Melaniegouby) April 15, 2019
A spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire, which comes as French Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, broke out at around 1650 GMT.
US President Donald Trump in a tweet said: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, some filming the images with their smartphones.
La flèche est tombée 😱 pic.twitter.com/iU0bC5JgyB
— Solveig Godeluck (@Solwii) April 15, 2019
The Medieval cathedral is one of the main attractions of the French capital, seeing 12 million tourists a year.
The fire was the second to affect historic churches in Paris, following the one in March that engulfed the St. Sulpice church, built in the 19th Century .
The Notre-Dame, the largest church in the French capital, was built between the 13th and 15th Century.