Report: Notre Dame Cathedral has only a 50% chance of being entirely saved
Update as of Dec. 25, 2019: The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says the iconic structure is so fragile that there's a 50% chance the structure might not be entirely saved, The Associated Press reports. This is due to the scaffolding installed before the fire that's threatening the vaults. In addition, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet stated that restoration work likely won't begin until 2021.
For the first time since the French Revolution, the Cathedral did not host Christmas services.
During a Monday evening press conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said the "worst had been avoided," according to CNN.
The spire and part of the roof collapsed, but the two main bell towers and the cathedral's facade were saved. Paris Fire Brigade commander general Jean-Claude Gallet declared the site, “saved and preserved in its entirety," while noting that much of the roof had been destroyed. No deaths have been reported, but at least one firefighter was seriously injured, according to French newspaper Le Monde.
Firefighters were also able to save all of the most precious works of art housed inside the medieval church, including relics such as the crown of thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis, a Notre Dame priest told one local reporter.
In a strange but lucky coincidence, just four days earlier, 16 statues had been removed from the spire to be restored. The statues would have almost certainly been destroyed, as the fire started in the upper levels of the cathedral, and the spire was one of the first parts of the building to collapse.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. City officials have suggested that it may be tied to an accident involving the ongoing restoration projects. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into the fire, French newspaper Le Figaro reported.
France is known for a hard-line stance on secularism, but in a rare moment, dozens of Parisians and visitors knelt down to sing hymns outside of the church, praying as firefighters battled the blaze.
Notre Dame, "is a symbol of Paris, a symbol of peace, togetherness and concord ... which occupies an exceptional site at the heart of the city," Middle Ages specialist Claude Gauvard told Agence France-Presse.
Leaders across Europe and around the world joined Paris in mourning Monday, posting messages of support on social media, while Macron promised that, "starting tomorrow," they would begin to restore the iconic landmark.
“I’m telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together," Macron said. "This is probably part of the French destiny. And we will do it in the next years. Starting tomorrow, a national donation scheme will be started that will extend beyond our borders."
Feature photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.