Notre-Dame de Paris: France's center is on fire

As a historic conflagration, this day will go down in guides and history books. Flames blaze in the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Paris has to watch helplessly.


It is a landmark of Paris, a major Catholic church, an early Gothic architectural wonder - an attraction that attracts millions of people every year. But the cathedral of Notre-Dame, where flames erupted on early Monday evening, is more than that: it is the place from which France literally begins.

Fifty meters in front of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is the zero point, the point zéro for France's country roads. From that inconspicuous golden star in the cobblestones all the distances in the province are counted - be it from here to Biarritz on the Atlantic, Marseilles on the Mediterranean or Grenoble at the foot of the Alps. Although Notre-Dame is not the geographic center of the country, the cathedral on the oldest inland island of Paris, surrounded by two Seine arms, is historically the center of France.

Nowhere else are so many tourists queuing up. The church with its twin towers from the 12th century want to see more visitors every year than, for example, the neighboring Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Now a large part of this monument has gone up in flames: As reported by French and international media on Monday evening, the roof structure and the once towering 96-meter central tower collapsed. Also in the late evening the fire, which had seized from the roof starting and transept of the cathedral, continued to blaze.

Millions of French people were following the news about the capital's fire in the media, and people around the world had begun to post photos of the flaming cathedral minutes after news had surfaced in the news - most of them from times gone by the church was still intact. "Notre-Dame is part of the soul of a whole nation," said French President Emmanuel Macron in a first reaction. "Like all of us, I'm sad to see this part of us burn."

Macron drove to the hearth that evening. He had recently postponed his most important speech of the year to the day before: Actually, the president wanted to present his answer to the yellow vests, wanted to present laws and ideas to tame the rage of many Frenchmen after 22 major demonstrations. But this became unimportant in the face of the flames. Almost all television stations interrupted their programs, newspapers switched live tickers, weeping people gathered on the bridges of the Seine, the Parisian river, which snakes past Notre-Dame. Some onlookers even refused to respect the safety margin of the police - almost as if they could save their cathedral by keeping an eye on it at the moment of impending destruction. Throughout France, people in restaurants and bars watched the videos of the burning towers, the collapsing central tower and the smoke billowing over the city.

Centuries old wooden beams, tinder for the fire

Shortly before 19 o'clock the fire had broken out in the roof of the cathedral. This apparently consisted of different and above all centuries old wooden beams. On the official website of Notre-Dame, which was not accessible in the evening, it is said that the roof is also called "forest" - so many different trees and woods were needed to build it. The slender pinnacle with the cross on top of it, which the Parisian flèche called "Arrow," collapsed an hour later, accompanied by the outcry of the passers-by. This ridge-rider stood in the Catholic symbolism for the connection to God, he is to represent a fingered heaven.

The fact that this fire causes so much horror worldwide, is probably also because no Paris visitor, no traveler can miss the sight of this imposing cathedral. If you have not been there yourself, you know them from photos or from films. All pleasure boats on the Seine pass by Touch Lady. In the evenings, young people drink their red wine in front of the illuminated towers and play the guitar. During the day, tourists often spend hours in the seemingly endless queues.


Smoke rises over the cathedral of Notre-Dame. In the early evening, a fire broke out in the roof of the Paris landmark.
The smoke column can be seen for miles. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, spoke of a "terrible fire".
The people of Paris watch the fire from a bridge.
For security reasons, the police have blocked the bridges to the Île de la Cité on which the cathedral stands.
The smoke also spreads over the Seine.
The cause of the fire is still unclear. It may be related to the elaborate renovations currently taking place in the cathedral.
This picture shows the scaffolding in flames.
Even the 96-meter Gothic roof ridge burns.
The filigree crossing tower can not stand the flames. At 8 pm he collapses on Monday evening.
With water cannons and turntables the fire department tries to extinguish the fire.

Notre Drame , "Our Drama," headlined the newspaper Libération , and indeed Frenchmen are stunned by the events. Also, because they have been watching for hours largely helplessly, as one game after the other is destroyed by the flames. One of the two towers was also attacked by the flames. The fire department tried to tame the fire with dozens of meters high water cannons. In the evening, the Pompiers were able to report a first good news: The two main towers and the basic structure of the building could be saved, it said.

It was still unclear what treasures from inside the historic building could be brought to safety - in the cathedral there were three organs, sculptures, mosaic windows, frescoes and paintings of inestimable value. One of the most important relics of the Catholic Church has been saved from the burning Cathedral Notre-Dame. It is the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, said Patrick Chauvet, director of the cathedral. The flames would not have reached the treasury.

The cause of the fire is still unknown

Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation, but on Monday night, the cause of the fire remained completely unclear. It could have been an accident but also an arson. The fire broke out at a time when the church had been closed to visitors for more than an hour, according to initial findings nobody was injured. Around 400 firefighters are deployed around the cathedral at night in Paris.

The first stone for Notre-Dame was laid in the 12th century, in the 19th century the cathedral was renovated and the now destroyed in the fire tower rebuilt. At this time also had the writer Victor Hugo with his novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame with the Hunchback Quasimodo a huge success. As a Walt Disney film, this figure and thus the church itself is even known to children. "The burning Notre-Dame also hits us in the heart," said Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Even US President Donald Trump, who otherwise does not spare negative remarks about France and Macron, pityed and tweeted, "It's terrible to see Notre-Dame burn." Trump advised to use fire engines. Many French people also wondered why the fire brigade did not try to extinguish the fire from the air. The answer came from French civil protection via Twitter: The falling, tons of water could cause the remaining structure of the building to collapse.

REF: https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2019-04/notre-dame-de-paris-frankreich-feuer-emmanuel-macron-kathedrale

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