Notre Dame’s golden altar cross glistens in the gloom as it becomes symbol of hope after blaze guts 850-year-old cathedral
NOTRE DAME'S golden altar cross was seen glowing among the gloomy ashes in a symbol of hope after a massive inferno ripped through the 850-year-old cathedral.
The glimmer of hope comes after fears the entire Parisienne landmark would be destroyed as the blaze ripped through the Gothic structure last night.
President Emmanuel Macron last night vowed to rebuild the 12th century structure as he thanked firefighters for rushing to the scene and forming a "human chain" to pull some of the landmark's most precious relics to safety.
Millions of pounds have already been donated to help rebuild the cathedral, including from Salma Hayek's French billionaire husband Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault.
Among the most precious relics saved is the item venerated as the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ – considered Paris’s equivalent of the Crown Jewels.
Photographs this morning show emergency services dousing the church with water after battling throughout the night, with at least one of the upper rose windows melted in the inferno's heat.
Two towers and the main structure of the cathedral are believed to have been saved.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- Huge blaze broke out at 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral at 5.30pm local time
- 300ft spire collapsed and Gothic roof turned to ash in ferocious blaze
- 400 firefighters battled inferno before main structure was saved
- Prosecutors ruled out arson but an investigation is underway – fire 'linked to renovation works'
- President Emmanuel Macron said 'We will rebuild' as Paris mourned loss
WHAT CAUSED THE BLAZE?
French prosecutors have launched an investigation although arson has been ruled out.
It is believed a "stray flame" linked to £5million renovation work sparked the inferno in the loft that saw plumes of black smoke billow into the sky.
An emergency service source said: "It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof.
"The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze."
Scaffolding which had been set up around the building has been decimated along with large parts of the cathedral itself, including the 300ft spire, which dates back to the mid-19th Century.
Police said no deaths have been reported although a firefighter has been "seriously injured".
'WE WILL REBUILD'
President Emmanuel Macron, who went to the scene at the height of the blaze, promised: "We will rebuild".
Addressing crowds outside the burning landmark, he announced a public fund to collect donations for the building works.
He said: "The fire will go on for several days. I would like to thank the firefighters on behalf of the nation.
"At this time, the worst has been avoided.
"Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we've lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives.
"It's the story of our books, our paintings. It's the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens."
This morning, experts are expected to begin their investigations into whether the structure is still stable.
It came as world leaders – from Theresa May to Angela Merkel – paid tribute to the symbol of France.
At the height of the blaze, Paris authorities admitted getting firefighters to the top of the building “was almost impossible.”
“It’s much too high up, and the only access is stone and spiral staircases – getting fire fighting crews up there is impossible,” said a source.
The wooden frame of the church, nicknamed “The Forest”, is “incredibly flammable” according to Notre Dame expert Daniel Christian.
In total, it contains around 1,300 trees and is believed to have contributed to the blaze spreading so quickly.
An emergency services source said that a water drop via plane or helicopter "was impossible" because the weight of the water dropped at low altitude would weaken the building and cause "extreme damage."
"Everything is collapsing," a cop near the scene said as the entire roof of the cathedral continued to burn.
The chief architect in charge of the works at the cathedral vowed to rebuild the damaged parts of the structure, telling Le Parisien: "We cannot leave Notre Dame in this state."
Firefighters cleared the area around the cathedral, which marks the very centre of Paris, while nearby buildings were evacuated.
Panicked locals expressed their concern for the medieval cathedral on Twitter.
One witness wrote: "It’s getting worse. But the fire brigade has turned up. Hard to see how the tackle this. The plume of smoke is already 100s of feet long."
An American chef, named only as AJ, watched the scene from a pub on a side street.
He told The Sun Online said: “I’m so sad. It’s not the first time it has burnt down. It’s my landmark. I live right here. It’s how I tell people to find me. It’s tragic.”
At one of the many barricades surrounding the cathedral, librarian Abigail Altman was in tears.
She said: “We had an event nearby tonight but no one could concentrate. I had to come here to see,” she said. “Everyone s do calm and respectful.”
LOCALS CRY IN THE STREET
New York tourists Laura and Kareem Cowart said: “It is a tragedy. The art. What’s inside. You can never replace it.”
Locals broke out in singing prayers in multiple places nearby.
One pulled up the words of a song dedicated to the Notre Dame, as tears rolled down his face.
“My heart bleeds,” said Bertrand, a finance executive. “I was at home when I heard the news. I’m here now praying with strangers.”
There was a cheer as more fire engines arrived. Blue lights flashed from the side streets and river boats.
A policeman shared photos of the blaze close up. “It’s going,” he said again.
French leader Macron, who postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the massive fire, looked solemn as he attended.
Our Lady of Paris: A history of Notre Dame
- One of the city's oldest and most recognisable buildings, work began on Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in 1163.
- The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to "Our Lady of Paris".
- Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year – more than 30,000 every day on average.
- It is believed to be the most visited structure in the French capital.
- The first stone of the original structure was laid in front of Pope Alexander III after the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, proposed the cathedral after his election in 1160.
- It grew iconic in popular culture through several artistic works, including the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was published in 1831 and adapted by Disney in 1996.
- The spire, which collapsed during the devastating fire, has undergone several changes in the building's history.
- The 13th century spire was dismantled during the French Revolution and later rebuilt in the 1860s.
- The cathedral's stained glass rose windows – at least one of which has been destroyed by the blaze – are also some of its most architecturally significant features.
- A brass plate set in stone outside the building also marks "Point Zero" in Paris, the centre of the city.
- It is the point in France from where all distances to Paris are measured.
- A message engraved around the stone reads: "Point zero des routes de France".
On Twitter, he wrote: “Notre Dame of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
A defiant Macron later said: "We will rebuild."
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump bizarrely suggested that the fire could be put out with "flying water tankers".
He tweeted: "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!"
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo described it as a "terrible fire" and urged people at the scene to stay safe.
The legendary church is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most visited buildings in the world.
Notre Dame – which means 'Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.
It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is visited by some 12 million people every year.
Officials at Westminster Abbey in London said they are "devastated for our friends" in Paris.
A post from its official Twitter account read: "Devastated for our friends at #NotreDame and for the people of France.
"You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight."
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