One Year Later: See the Most Dramatic Photos from the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire in Paris and the Aftermath
The blaze at the Gothic landmark erupted around 6:20 p.m. local time on April 15, 2019, and consumed the cathedral's roof, causing the building's spire to fall and portions of the ceiling to collapse
Notre Dame Cathedral on Fire
The first fire alarm at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was triggered around 6:20 p.m. local time on April 15, 2019, the New York Times reports. Flames tore through the structure's roof, and the ceiling began collapsing as onlookers watched the landmark become engulfed. The cathedral, which was completed in 1345, is over 850 years old. It famously served as the setting for Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and the site of the crownings of Henry VI of England and emperor Napoléon Bonaparte of France.
French TV network BFM-TV reports that the fire was “possibly linked” to the renovation of the building and began in the rafters, but there were no workers scheduled to be on the rooftop scaffolding at the hour the fire broke out. Last week, construction workers removed the copper statues from the building's spire and transported them to southwestern France as part of the $6.8 million renovation project, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Visible from the Seine River
A massive plume of smoke was visible over the River Seine, which surrounds the Catholic cathedral on Paris' Île de la Cité, an island in the center of the capital.
A Secure Perimeter
A large security perimeter was set up by firefighters after they evacuated the cathedral. The first units to arrive on the scene included four large ladders and two aerial lift arms. Pedestrians flooded the streets to watch and document the blaze, many in tears, one Paris resident tells PEOPLE.
A Likely Destruction
A spokesperson for the cathedral told the BBC that the whole structure is “burning,” adding, “There will be nothing left.”
An International Tragedy
“Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in a tweet translated from French. He canceled a speech that he was scheduled to deliver Monday night to go to the site.
The Spire Has Fallen
The French Gothic building is known for its stained-glass rose windows, flying buttresses and large spire, which collapsed onto the roof during the blaze. This spire replaced the original, which was damaged by wind and removed in the 18th century. The modern spire is made of oak wood covered with lead.
A World in Mourning
As onlookers watched the cathedral burn, they mourned the historic building. “It hurts to watch this. The cathedral is the symbol, the heart of Paris,” Pierre-Eric Trimovillas told the Times before saying that the crowd gasped and cried while watching the spire fall. He added: “Paris is beheaded.”
As night fell, groups of onlookers began singing "Ave Maria" while watching the cathedral go up in flames. Although officials had previously thought the structure would be unsalvageable after the blaze, a fire official told CNBC that as of 11:20 p.m. local time, the main building's integrity had been saved and the fire had been contained.
A Landmark Preserved
According to a tweet from the AFP News Agency later on Monday, an official confirmed that the main structure of the historic building had been “saved and preserved,” despite the spire and roof being consumed by flames and collapsing earlier in the evening.
Tuesday morning the damage could be assessed in daylight. Photos inside the church show the sky clearly visible through the remains of the roof.
Charred material from the roof litters the floor of the church, where rows of wooden pews still stand.
A Glimmer of Hope
While much of what was inside the cathedral appeared to be damaged by smoke and ash, and embers still fell from the roof, the large cross in the front of the building was miraculously captured still standing and lit up amongst the darkness on Tuesday.
One of the cathedral's famed rose windows is blakened, but the stonework is intact. An investigation into the origin of the blaze is ongoing, but for now, officials are treating it as an accident, not a deliberate act.
Plans to Rebuild
Macron delivered a speech Monday night, in which he said the cathedral would be rebuilt and a public fundraising drive would open Tuesday morning in France.
“The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn’t fully won yet,” he told crowds outside of the church.
“It is with pride I tell you tonight we will rebuild this cathedral,” he added. “We will rebuild Notre Dame because it is what the French expect of us, it is what our history deserves, it is, in the deepest sense, our destiny.”
Donations Pouring In
Several of France's wealthiest citizens, including billionaire LVMH head Bernard Arnault and François-Henri Pinault, husband to Salma Hayek, have pledged hundreds of million dollars in donations to help rebuild the cathedral. So far over 600 million euros has been raised overnight.
Rose Window Preserved
The colorful stained-glass windows that are one of Notre Dame's most recognizable features were miraculously spared by the fire and have been preserved, photos taken the day following the disaster show.