Photo Credit: Benoit Tessier / Reuters
A serious fire which caused devastating damage to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has drawn expressions of solidarity from Anglican leaders. The Roman Catholic cathedral is seen by many French people as their country’s mother church. In its 850-year history it has witnessed much of the dramatic moments of Parisian history. An automatic fire alarm sounded at 6.20 pm CEST (4.20 pm GMT) on Monday evening (15 April) and security staff cleared the cathedral. But there was no visible sign of fire. The alarm sounded again just over 20 minutes later, at 6.43 pm, by which time the cathedral’s security staff could see the fire.
The blaze rapidly took hold of the cathedral as live television pictures of the operation to extinguish the fire were broadcast around the world. Viewers around the world watched as Notre Dame’s famous spire – an iconic part of the Parisian skyline – collapsed into the burning roof.
Firefighters have been praised for their bravery in protecting the core of the building and saving priceless historic artworks. An investigation into the cause of the blaze has begun, but prosecutors are working on the premise that the fire was started accidentally.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has vowed to rebuild the cathedral within five years; but experts have said that it could take between 10 to 15 years to complete the work.
The Vice President of the French Heritage Foundation (Fondation du Patrimoine), Bertrand de Feydeau, said that there are no trees in France large enough to rebuild the cathedral’s large wooden frame. He said that the roof was constructed from 300 – 400 year old Beachwood beams more than 850 years ago. “There are no longer trees of that size in France,” he told CNN.
This pool photo by Reuters photographer Philippe Wojazer, taken inside the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on Tuesday morning, has been shared widely on social media and has become an iconic symbol of resurrection hope.
Photo: Philippe Wojazer / Reuters / Pool
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby responded to the fire as it was blazing on Monday Night.
In a Tweet, he said: “Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic #NotreDame fire - and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous. [We are with you]”.
The Archbishop of York, whose own cathedral, York Minster, was severely damaged in a fire in 1984, said that prayers were said at the chapel in his official residence, Bishopthorpe, on Tuesday morning. “Our thoughts are with all those working tirelessly in Paris to save & salvage what they can”, he said.
Both archbishops have asked all cathedrals and churches across England to toll a bell for seven minutes at 7 pm BST (6 pm GMT) tomorrow (Thursday) “as a mark of solidarity following the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.” The initiative was proposed by Britain’s Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn. “It is hoped that many will take part”, the archbishops said.
The newly-consecrated Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Bishop Mark Edington, joined the Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, and the Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Paris, Lucinda Laird, in a joint statement. “The Episcopal Church throughout Europe, with its seat in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris, expresses its sympathy to the people of Paris and to all who sense the immense loss of this priceless and historic house of worship”, they said.
“We extend to Archbishop Aupetit and to all his people our sincere condolences and our readiness to offer any hospitality that would be of help to the community and congregation of Notre Dame in this most holy season of the faith we share. And we send our prayers in this week that ends in what we know to be the sure and certain promise of resurrection for the future life and restoration of this monument of Christian faith.”
The Archdeacon of France, in the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, Meurig Williams, said he was “absolutely devastated by the scenes of destruction at Notre Dame de Paris”.
“The Anglican community in France join their prayers with the Diocese of Paris and their Archbishop, Mgr Michel Aupetit, with Mgr Patrick Chauvet, the Recteur de Notre Dame, and all for whom Notre Dame is their spiritual home”, he said. “During this Holy Week, we accompany our Catholic brothers and sisters, as we confront the destruction of crucifixion, confident that it leads to resurrection and new life. May Notre Dame rise once more to witness to the risen Christ.”