The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, tweeted out that several relics, including the Crown of Thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis, and several major pieces of art were saved from the fire by a human chain of police and municipal agents. (Image Credit: @Anne_Hidalgo/Twitter)
Paris, April 15 (Reuters): A massive fire consumed Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, gutting the roof of the Paris landmark and stunning France and the world, though firefighters saved the main bell towers and outer walls from collapse before bringing the blaze under control.
Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the eight-centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which toppled, quickly followed by the entire roof.
The fire, after burning for about 8 hours, was largely extinguished by 0300 CET on Tuesday. Earlier, in addition to battling to prevent one of the main bell towers from collapsing, firefighters tried to rescue religious relics and priceless artwork. One firefighter was seriously injured – the only reported casualty.
The cathedral’s main stone structure had escaped complete destruction by the time the fire came under control.
“We will continue to watch over any residual pockets of fire and cool down the areas that are still red-hot, like the wooden beam framework,” a fire brigade spokesman said in the early hours of Tuesday.
Firefighters battled smoke and falling drops of molten lead as they tried to rescue some of Notre-Dame’s treasures.
A centuries-old crown of thorns made from reeds and gold and the tunic worn by Saint Louis, a 13th century king of France, were saved, Notre-Dame’s top administrative cleric, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said. But firefighters struggled to take down some of the large paintings in time, he said.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had launched an inquiry into the fire. Several police sources said they were working on the assumption for now that the fire was accidental.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said at the scene that some of many artworks that were in the cathedral had been rescued and were being put in safe storage.
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, features in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of tourists every year.
It is a focal point for French Roman Catholics who like Christians around the world are celebrating Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus.