News Editor, Izzy Brann, discusses the events and repercussions from this Monday.
Discovered at 16:43 on Monday, firefighters were quickly called to the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Firefighters worked overnight to extinguish the flames, which quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, ripping through the wooden interior and toppling the spire. Luckily, the spread of the fire was halted before it could destroy the iconic towers and the world famous stained glass windows. The fire was eventually extinguished at 08:00 the following morning.
The extent of the damage, both fire and water from the ensuing rescue efforts, is not yet certain. Teams had begun assessing the damage before the fire had even been distinguished but no official statements have been released yet. Photos show that the cathedrals organ has survived and at least one of the rose stained glass-windows, meanwhile France’s officials have said that while the core structure has survived, the cathedral remains unstable. Now, work is underway to remove the relics that remain, storing paintings and artefacts in a local hotel.
Home to priceless relics, including what is thought to have been the crown of thorns worn by Christ, and centuries of invaluable history, the blaze has shocked Paris to its core. Ripples of devastation spread as the world began to mourn the devastation of this priceless piece of art and history, with prayer and vigil and homage from previous holidays. The 950 year old building had survived the Revolution, inspired countless examples of iconic literature and provided a place of pilgrimage for centuries, so the response to the event has been unprecedented.
Many including Christians, are viewing this rare disaster as an unavoidable symbol, perhaps that of God’s wrath. The blaze comes a time of growing conflict over the papacy, threatened by compromise with more secular powers, scandals around child abuse, such as that with Cardinal Pell, and by other religious movements such as Pentecostal Christianity. With poverty and religious upheaval, and a new crisis every day, many would say that religious faith is more stretched than ever before. However, as the Notre Dame still stands, its shell preserved and relics saved, the wrecked building becomes a symbol of resurrection; a new beginning perfectly timed for Easter.
Plans for ‘Our Lady’s’ restoration are already underway, with French president, Macron, promising its reconstruction within just 5 years. Hundreds of millions of euros have already been pledged to aid this mission, from individuals and millionaires, including the Bettencourt family of L’Oreal, who have pledged 200m euros. While the outpouring of support for this Unesco World Heritage site, is certainly very generous, as the consequences of the fire play out, many have noted an undeniable air of hypocrisy.
Initially, individuals in Britain began to compare the blaze and subsequent support, to the awful events of the Grenfell Tower blaze, highlighting the inequality residents faced, receiving less support and compensation than the inanimate objects of the Notre Dame, in social media posts that went viral. Meanwhile, in times of rising homelessness, riots and a greater population living below the poverty line than ever before, others have criticised the billionaires’ use of resources. This is especially pertinent with a comparison to reports from 2017, which detailed the broken and botched state of Paris’ cathedral, crumbling at the hands of official neglect. Thus, controversy has certainly been ignited by this blaze.
However, this influx of emotion directed towards the church has had a rather positive effect outside of Europe. The fire has led to an increased focus upon the three black churches in the United States that were devastated by arson earlier this year. Many on social media, including French firefighter, Megan Romer, used their sadness over the cathedral’s destruction to divert attention to these three churches that did not have the safety net of several billionaires. As a result, the appeal for the Louisiana churches managed to reach their GoFundMe of $1.8m in just three days, when it had previously been struggling around the $100,000 mark.
Whatever the significance, or whatever happens next, the devastation of the Notre Dame has certainly caught the world’s attention.
Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna