Notre Dame fire – updates: Paris cathedral could take decades to be rebuilt after ‘tragedy with a European dimension’

Millions pledged to help restoration work as world reacts to devastation

The fire which devastated, Notre Dame cathedral, thought to have been caused by an accident rather than arson, the public prosecutor has said, as investigators work to establish what led the centuries-old architectural masterpiece to be consumed by flames.

Wealthy French benefactors have pledged hundreds of millions of euros to rebuild the famous building after its roof and spire were ravaged by the blaze.

However, architects have warned the work to repair the building could take decades.

Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth II have led a global outpouring of grief for the cathedral, as work begins on assessing the damage following firefighters’ 14-hour battle to extinguish flames.

Donald Trump has expressed condolences to French president Emmanuel Macron over the Notre Dame fire during a phone call on Tuesday and offered US assistance in the rehabilitation of the cathedral, the White House said.
“Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on 12 September, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic 11 September attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again.”

Historic England has offered to support France’s efforts to restore Notre Dame Cathedral.
Chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “We are shocked and devastated by the terrible fire at Notre Dame de Paris and the extent of damage to one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe – a symbol of France and an extraordinary example of Gothic architecture. “We are in contact with friends and colleagues in France and stand ready to offer any support that might assist in the challenging work that lies ahead to secure Notre Dame and plan for its future.”

Opinion: Notre Dame shows the raw power of cathedrals – just as the far right tries to hijack Christianity

Extremists are increasingly using the church as a symbol of a white immigrant-free Europe that must be salvaged at all costs

Queen Elizabeth’s oldest son, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, said he too was “utterly heartbroken” to learn of the fire. Charles, who has expressed strong feelings about protecting traditional architecture, said in a message to Mr Macron: “I realise only too well what a truly special significance the cathedral holds at the heart of your nation; but also for us all outside France it represents one of the greatest architectural achievements of Western Civilisation.”
He added: “It is a treasure for all mankind and, as such, to witness its destruction in this most dreadful conflagration is a shattering tragedy, the unbearable pain of which we all share.”

Queen Elizabeth has sent a message to French president Emmanuel Macron to say she was deeply saddened by the fire which engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral and that her prayers were with all of France, Buckingham Palace said. “Prince Philip and I have been deeply saddened to see the images of the fire which has engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral,” Queen Elizabeth’s message said. “I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives to try to save this important national monument. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who worship at the Cathedral and all of France at this difficult time.”

Czech president Milos Zeman is offering France the expertise and assistance of leading Czech specialists.
In a letter to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, Mr Zeman said the Czech Republic is, like France, a country with many Gothic and medieval historic buildings and palaces. Mr Zeman said “the fire of Notre Dame affects us all”. Mr Zeman offered teams of top restoration experts that work at Prague Castle, the historic seat of Czech presidency, which includes St Vitus Cathedral, a Gothic architectural masterpiece. Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said his country is also ready to send France financial assistance.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner said there are still some risks that may endanger the structure of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Mr Castaner told reporters after a brief visit to the cathedral it is “under permanent surveillance because it can still budge”. He added that state employees will need to wait 48 hours before being able to safely enter the cathedral and take care of the art works that are still there. Some were too big to be transferred. Mr Castaner said: “We will be standing at [Notre Dame’s] bedside.”

Our shock at the damage to Note Dame is “to do with the sudden and gaping loss of something we assumed was permanent”, writes architecture critic Jay Merrick

The burning of Notre Dame is proof that truly great architecture has a hallucinatory power.

Bells at churches and cathedrals across England are to be rung in solidarity with France, Downing Street has announced.

The bells at Westminster Abbey will toll at 5.43pm this evening to mark the moment the fire began.

Other churches and cathedrals across the country will follow suit on Thursday.

Theresa May said the gesture would “underline our solidarity with France and her people”.

Experts from Historic England are also coordinating with colleagues across the UK heritage sector to make an offer of support to their French counterparts once the damage has been assessed.

The prime minister said: “Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe. The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.

“President Macron has pledged to rebuild the cathedral and I have conveyed to him that the UK will support this endeavour however we can.

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world. As they prepare to embark on this daunting task, we stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

French energy company Total has pledged €100m (£87m) towards Notre Dame repairs, bringing the total amount of funding offered by businesses and tycoons to more than €600m (£519m).

The oil and gas giant said it would donate “to help the construction of this architectural jewel”.

L’Oreal, the French cosmetics firm, has pledged to give the same amount to rebuild “a symbol of French heritage and of our common history.”

Rival billionaire fashion tycoons Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault, earlier pledged €100m and €200m (£174m) respectively.

Emmanuel Macron to hold a full day of cabinet meetings fully dedicated to the aftermath of the fire tomorrow.

The French president’s office said a morning session would be followed by another in the afternoon focusing on the national fund-raising campaign and reconstruction work. 

Mr Macron is to speak by phone with Pope Francis later today. 

He has postponed a speech and a news conference aimed at responding to the yellow vest crisis for an indefinite period, to respect “a moment of great national emotion.”

Mr Macron was initially planning to announce measures this week addressing the concerns of anti-government protesters. 

The French Bishops’ Conference says that the bells of all cathedrals across the country will ring on Wednesday at 6.50pm, the time when the fire started on Monday.
On Tuesday the Bishops’ Conference said in a statement that this will show the solidarity of all dioceses toward Paris and said the fire at Notre Dame “is a shock that affects far beyond just the Catholics of our country.”
France has 103 Catholic cathedrals.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner has arrived at Notre Dame to see the damage caused by the fire and speak to firefighters who worked to extinguish the blaze.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has said the company will donate to help restore Notre Dame.

French firefighters have sent a drone over Notre Dame to survey the damage caused by the blaze.

Denis Jachiet, deputy bishop of the cathedral, said there would be no Easter celebrations in Notre Dame this year.
He said: “It’s impossible to enter into the cathedral so these religious celebrations will take place in other churches. “For the religious I think there is really an invitation to prayer and the internalisation of this situation.” He continued:The fire department told us that they at first tried to confine this blaze, it was impossible to put it out – no human could have done that. But it was certainly possible to contain it. They battled to contain it to preventing from spreading from the interior of the spire. They succeeded in saving the tower and therefore saved the facade. The bishop said the emergency services had worked through the night to remove works of art and take them to safe keeping. I feel the greatest sadness for this disaster. In around one hour it destroyed something that had spanned almost nine centuries.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the message of encouragement to France after the Notre Dame Cathedral fire should be that “it’s not the end of the world” and that the damage will be repaired.
Mr Tusk told Polish reporters in Strasbourg after a European Parliament debate on Brexit it was the duty of all Europeans and all Poles to give France courage after this “dramatic” event. Recalling his native Poland’s efforts to rebuild its cities, many reduced to rubble, after the Second World War, Mr Tusk said his compatriots “have the right and the duty to say – ‘You will manage, this is not the end of the world'”.

French cosmetics group L’Oreal, along with owners the Bettencourt Meyers family and a linked charitable foundation, have said they will donate €200m (£172m) for repairs to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The director of Unesco has said expert work must be carried out immediately to protect Notre Dame Cathedral’s remaining structure.
Audrey Azoulay said it is too early to say whether the treasured rose windows of Notre Dame are unscathed because art experts have not been able to study the site yet. She said the first 24-48 hours are crucial to protecting the stone and wood structure from water damage and assessing next steps. She warned parts of the cathedral remain “extremely fragile”, notably hundreds of tonnes of scaffolding set up around the cathedral spire that collapsed. She said Notre Dame has “a particular place in the world’s collective imagination”. Notre Dame is part of a Unesco heritage site that includes the surrounding quais and islands, and Unesco has offered its expertise to help rebuild.

Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of Paris fire brigade, has been hailed as a hero entering the burning Notre Dame cathedral to recover the famous Crown of Thorns.


Mr Fournier insisted on being allowed to enter the edifice with fire fighters and played a role in the relic’s rescue, according to Philippe Goujon, mayor of Paris’s 15th district.


The chaplain’s bravery had previously been noted after the November 2016 Bataclan terror attack, when he tended to the injured at the music venue and prayed over the dead.

Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has rocketed to the top of the bestseller list of Amazon in France in its original version. 
Meanwhile, the English translation of the 1831 novel is also number one in sales in the category of historical fiction. 
Telling the story of Quasimodo, a deformed bell-ringer of the cathedral in the 15th century, the book helped rally support for Notre Dame’s massive renovation later in the 19th century. 
Campaigning for the preservation of the cathedral, Hugo described it as crumbling and marked by “countless defacements and mutilations,” contributing to alert the public about the issue. 

British defence secretary Gavin Williamson has responded to MPs’ concerns that parliament could suffer a similar fate to Notre Dame.

Politicians including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had urged for the Paris blaze to act as a warning over the crumbling Westminster estate.

Mr Williamson said: 

It is important that the investment is made in the parliamentary buildings to ensure such a thing doesn’t happen again.

That is why it is the right thing to do to be making the investments that are in order to ensure that such an iconic building such as the Palace of Westminster isn’t vulnerable to fire as well.

I think that the House authorities have been very clear in terms of their commitment to making this happen.

I know that you see around parliament today a vast amount of investment that’s already been undertaken in order to be able to ensure that the work that needs to be done to Parliament is being done to Parliament.

With what Andrea (Leadsom, Leader of the House) is doing in terms of leading that restoration and renewal, the right attitude and the right approach has been taken by the house authorities.

The chief architect of Cologne cathedral has predicted it could take decades to repair the damage Notre Dame cathedral.

Peter Fuessenich, who oversees all construction work for the Gothic cathedral in the German city, told broadcaster RTL on Tuesday that “it will certainly take years, perhaps even decades, until the last damage caused by this terrible fire will be completely repaired.” 

Cologne cathedral was heavily damaged during World War II and work to repair it is still ongoing more than 70 years later. 

Fuessenich called the fire in Paris “a tragedy with a European dimension” as many churches and cathedrals across the continent were inspired by buildings in France. He said “when the last stone was set in Notre Dame, the first one was laid here in Cologne, and in this respect it affects us all very much.” 

The timbered roof of Cologne cathedral’s was replaced with an iron frame during the 19th century, meaning a fire there would be less devastating. 

All of the “most precious” treasures in Notre Dame were rescued, says French culture minister Franck Riester.

Some of them will be placed in the Louvre as early as today.

Mr Riester told a press conference: 

First of all the treasures, the most precious ones, were saved last night and stored at the Hotel de Ville in Paris, and I’d like to thank the town hall of Paris, and also the teams of ministry of culture, the fire officers and also everyone who really tried to save the crown (of thorns) and various other treasures.

Some of them will also be placed in the Louvre today or tomorrow, as soon as possible. As far as the major paintings, they will in fact only be withdrawn from Notre Dame probably on Friday morning.

They have not been damaged but there could be some damage from the smoke so we are going to take them safely and place them in the Louvre where they will be dehumidified and they will be protected, conserved and then restored.

A number of parts of Notre Dame’s structure “have been identified as particularly vulnerable” but “what remains of the roof should hold”, France’s culture minister Franck Riester has said.

Architects and firefighters have this morning been assessing damage to the cathedral.

Mr Riester said the structure was largely still “sound” and large paintings, despite suffering some fire damage, were mostly still intact.

Artworks salvaged from Notre Dame cathedral are to be transferred to Paris’s Louvre museum, the French culture minister has said.

My colleague Simon Calder has taken a look at the implications of the fire for the city’s tourism industry, and you can read that Here.

British MPs have warned the Palace of Westminster is at risk of a “huge” fire on the scale of the blaze which has devastated Notre Dame.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the inferno in Paris should act as a warning over the crumbling state of buildings in Westminster, which are in need of multibillion-pound restorations.

He said: “You can see the majesty and beauty of that building and to see it destroyed is devastating, I think, for everybody in Paris and indeed around the world, because you see beautiful buildings like that and think of the beautiful buildings we’ve got in this country.

“If any of those were destroyed in fire, how would we feel about it?”

Politicians have acknowledged that action is needed to safeguard the Houses of Parliament but have spent years wrangling over the best way to proceed.

A “restoration and renewal” programme is not expected to start in earnest until the mid-2020s after MPs and peers voted in early 2018 to leave the historic building to allow the work to be carried out.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who sat on a joint committee of parliamentarians from both Houses which examined the issue, said: “We have taken far too long already putting our fire safety measures in place.

“Parts of the Palace are as old as Notre Dame and we must make sure that every fire precaution is taken as the major work goes ahead. God knows we’ve had enough warnings.”

The joint committee noted in a 2016 report that “a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the Palace”.

Queen Elizabeth II has sent a message to French president Emmanuel Macron, saying she was “deeply saddened to see the images of the fire which has engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral” and extending her “sincere admiration to the emergency services”. 

She added: “I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives to try to save this important national monument.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those who worship at the Cathedral and all of France at this difficult time.”

Newspapers around the world splashed images of the Notre Dame inferno on their front pages today. Cyril Petit, an editor at Le Journal du Dimanche, tweeted this mosaic of international coverage: 

Two police officers and one firefighter were “lightly wounded” during the nine-hour effort to extinguish the blaze, Paris’s fire brigade has said.

More than 400 firefighters were involved. 

Officials previously said, that one firefighter had been seriously injured. 

Twelve construction workers involved renovating Notre Dame’s renovation at time of the fire have already been interviewed by French police, reports Le Monde.

Forty detectives have been deployed to collect witness testimonies as they look to establish what caused the blaze.

Police said last night they had opened an investigation into “involuntary destruction by fire” and did not believe the flames were started deliberately.

The first images taken in today’s morning light have revealed the extent of the damage to Notre Dame cathedral, writes my colleague Chiara Giordano:

First dawn images show scale of damage to Notre Dame cathedral.

Emmanuel Macron has suspended campaigning for the European elections following the Notre Dame fire. 

French politician Nathalie Loiseau, who is spearheading the campaign for the president’s LREM party, said the decision had been taken to mark this “moment of extreme sadness”. 

The campaign has been halted “until further notice”, she tweeted.