The cathedral's great bell Emmanuel will sound Wednesday night for the first time in a year to mark the anniversary

By Eric Todisco and Peter Mikelbank
April 15, 2020 12:47 PM
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On April 15, 2019, a massive fire erupted at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, causing the building’s spire to fall and portions of the ceiling to collapse. The blaze, believed to have been started by an electrical malfunction, left the 850-year-old church’s future in question as donations to rebuild came pouring in from around the world.

One year later, reconstruction on the famous site has been put on hold indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 16, when France issued widespread restrictions to combat the spread of the virus. (The country’s lockdown has since been extended until at least May 11).

At 8 p.m. Wednesday night local time, Notre Dame’s great bell Emmanuel will sound for the first time in a year to commemorate the anniversary of the fire. There will also be applause for caregivers working in Paris’s hospitals to combat COVID-19 at that time.

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In a video posted on the Elysée Palace website, French President Emmanuel Macron reinstated his initial promise that he would do everything possible to rebuild and reopen the cathedral in five years, as promised.

“We will do everything to meet this deadline,” Macron said. “I don’t think that wait-and-see or disarray is a reply to the challenge of these times.

“Of course, the site is on hold at the moment due to the health crisis, but it will restart as soon as possible,” he added. “It must be rebuilt to the heights it was. Her force demands that.”

In his message, Macron again thanked “all those who yesterday saved it and all those who today are rebuilding it.”

“If the restoration of Notre-Dame is important to all of us, it is undoubtedly also because it is a symbol of the resilience of our people, of their capacity to overcome hardships, and to recover,” Macron said.

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Last week, a televised Good Friday service was held in the cathedral by Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, along with seven others. There was no congregation.

Photos from the scene showed most of the participants wearing face masks and haz-med suits, which are reportedly used because the cathedral still contains microparticles from the fire and roof collapse, not because of fears about coronavirus.

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It remains unknown of much of the funds raised for restoration efforts will be used. According to CNN, 850 million euros ($928 million) was pledged by donors, while the Notre Dame Cathedral Foundation said they’ve collected 55.8 million euros ($60.9 million), as well as an additional 319 million euros ($348 million) in commitments from the Center des Monuments Nationaux and the Fondation de France.

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The Notre Dame cathedral is located on an island in the center of the capital called the Île de la Cité, surrounded by the River Seine. The building was completed around 1260, but has been modified over the centuries.

The French Gothic structure is remarkable for its stained-glass rose window (which miraculously survived the fire), its flying buttresses and large spire. The latter collapsed after being consumed by flames. That spire replaced the original, which was damaged by wind and removed in the 18th century. The current one was made of oak covered with lead and weighed 750 tons.

Notre Dame was also the subject of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was made into a popular animated film by Disney in 1996.