As a practicing Catholic who visited the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in 2015, watching the news reports covering the conflagration, the destruction of its roof, and the collapse of its iconic spire was gut-wrenching.
Yesterday, my colleague Mary Chastain did an exceptional job covering the response of the emergency crews, French citizens, and those who were glued to social media as they followed events.
Today, a look at the inside of Notre Dame shows that in addition to the important religious pieces such as the Crown of Thorns saved yesterday, most structural elements have miraculously survived the blaze.
Some will call it a miracle. According to Notre Dame’s heritage director, only one piece of architecture inside the sacred building has been damaged.
Laurent Prades told The Associated Press that the high altar, which was installed in 1989, was hit and harmed by the cathedral’s spire when it came crashing down in the flames. “We have been able to salvage all the rest,” said Prades, who witnessed the recovery first hand overnight.
“All the 18th-century steles, the pietas, frescoes, chapels and the big organ are fine,” he said. Among the most famous elements inside the cathedral, Prades added that the three large stained-glass rose windows have not been destroyed, though they may have been damaged by the heat and will be assessed by an expert.
— Edwin Bouw (@EdwinBouw) April 16, 2019
French billionaires and corporations are already directing millions to the reconstruction of the Cathedral.
Donations to rebuild Notre Dame have exceeded 650 million euros as France’s richest man pledged 200 million euros (£170m) towards the restoration after Monday night’s inferno.
Bernard Arnault of luxury goods group LVMH doubled the 100 million euros pledged by Hollywood actress Salma Hayek’s husband Francois-Henri Pinault.
Other heavyweight donors include the Bettencourt family – owners of cosmetics giant L’Oreal – who have given 200 million euros and the French oil giant Total who donated 100 million on Tuesday.
Apple chief Tim Cook has also promised to donate. Catholic churches around the world are coming together to help the repair efforts; for example, I am organizing a donation for our Parish.
Czech President Milos Zeman is the expertise and assistance of experienced Czech specialists to help restore Notre Dame.
In a letter to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, Zeman said Tuesday that the Czech Republic is, like France, a country with many Gothic and medieval historic buildings and palaces. Zeman said that “the fire of Notre Dame affects us all.”
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.
Meanwhile, a 32-year old construction boss is at the center of the fire probe. He had boasted about his firm’s ability to protect historic sites when his company won millions in the contract to repair the cathedral’s spire.
Julien Le Bras, 32, declared last year: ‘Our first thought is to protect the values of historical buildings, it’s in our DNA.’
His firm, Le Bras Freres, a small company known as the ‘Cathedral Restorers’, had won the £5million (€5.8m, $6.5m) contract to renovate the spire of the Paris landmark.
Today craftsmen from the company were being questioned by investigators after the spire came crashing down in Monday’s blaze, which caused such extensive damage that experts believe it could take decades to repair.
Investigators believe the devastating blaze started in the roof cavity below the spire where the work, which included the use of electric tools, was being carried out.
As a safety professional, I would offer the most valuable lessons in the wake of this tragedy relates to fire prevention and suppression. Reconstruction can include innovative sprinkler systems, safer electrical equipment, and fire-resistant materials.
Spiritually, perhaps the lesson from the burning of Notre Dame relates to this Holy Week: We can celebrate a resurrection after a dreadful loss.
I was a guest on Canto Talk today, where I was joined by Rosine Ghawji, conservative activist and founder of Working Mothers for Donald Trump, a French woman who had been at the cathedral this past November.
One last image: Of my son and I, as we stand in front of Notre Dame in 2015. It is a moment I will treasure forever.
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