French President Emmanuel Macron promised Tuesday to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral “within five years” after a fire caused extensive damage to the Parisian landmark.
Macron said in a nationwide televised address the 850-year-old structure would be rebuilt “even more beautifully” and called on citizens to “change this disaster into an opportunity to come together.”
The fire is out and experts are assessing the damage. Paris fire department spokesman Gabriel Plus said building specialists and architects are “surveying the movement of structures and extinguishing smoldering residues.”
Although the fire caused massive damage to the famed Gothic edifice in central Paris, the city’s fire chief, Jean-Claude Gallet, said firefighters saved the building’s two iconic towers and stone structure.
The flames, which at one point burned 10 meters into the air above the roof, destroyed much of the cathedral’s roof and caused its central spire to collapse.
Cathedral spokesman Andre Finot said Monday the entire wooden interior of the cathedral was likely to have been destroyed.
Paris officials said firefighters worked to save as much art work and holy objects from the 12th-century cathedral as they could. Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said pieces of the purported Crown of Christ was salvaged and transported to “a secret” location.
The world-famous 18th century organ also survived, officials said, as did statues removed just days ago for restoration and other treasures inside the cathedral.
It is not clear what caused the blaze, although fire officials said the blaze may be linked to renovation work at the building.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said 50 investigators are involved in the “long and complex” effort to find the cause. Heitz said investigators would interview workers from five companies working on the restoration. A spokesman for one of the companies, Julien le Bras, said “all the security measures were respected” by its 12 workers who he said are “participating in the investigation with no hesitation.”
A Vatican statement expressing shock and sadness and called Notre Dame a “symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Tuesday on Twitter Pope Francis is praying “for those who are trying to cope with this dramatic situation.”
The fire occurred during the holiest week of the year for Christians. It occurred less than a week before Easter and during Catholic Holy Week commemorations. An Easter Mass had been planned at the cathedral on Sunday.
The medieval Catholic cathedral is one of the most visited historical monuments in Europe, welcoming millions of people each year. It dates to the 12th century and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo’s classic novel, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” (VOA)