Fundraising Begins to Rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 16, 2019   

Multi-million-dollar pledges already made; Crown of Thorns and Blessed Sacrament rescued by priest

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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Just hours after a fire severely damaged Notre Dame Cathedral, fundraising efforts are already underway for restoring the historic church.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault has pledged 200 million euros to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. Another French billionaire, François-Henri Pinault, has pledged 100 million euros. An online donation campaign from France's heritage foundation, Fondation du Patrimoine, has already raised 16,000 euros.

A fire started at the world-famous cathedral sometime before 7 p.m. local time on Monday. The roof and spire went up in flames and smoke. The spire and roof collapsed around 8 p.m.

Various videos on social media show the flames engulfing the cathedral's high roof and tall spire. Videos also show vast pillars of smoke billowing up, tainting the Paris skyline.

Some commentators on the Notre Dame fire spoke about the demographic collapse of the Catholic faith in Europe. They noted that perhaps the fire is a symbol of the spiritual and cultural destruction that the Catholic Church has undergone in recent times.

 

The precise cause of the fire is unknown, but Paris officials say it was an accident, not arson. There were renovations happening on sections of the cathedral's roof, and it has been suggested that the fire was caused by an accident during the renovation work.

Some have speculated that it was an act of arson, pointing to how numerous other historic French churches have been vandalized in recent months.

Notre Dame Cathedral was built some 800 years ago. Construction began in 1160 and was largely finished by around 1260.

Despite Monday night's massive fire, there are reports that some of the cathedral's historic rose windows — large, circular, stained-glass windows located in select places on the building — remain unharmed.

Photographs of the damage indicate that numerous smaller windows, located high up near the now-destroyed roof, were shattered during the fire. But some of these windows were not the stained glass.

As the fire raged Monday night, Parisians and tourists poured out into the streets to watch in shock as the massive Gothic cathedral went up in flames. Many onlookers took photos and videos of the conflagration, as did reporters for news organizations from around the world.

Amid the vast crowds looking on, there were some who got on their knees and prayed to Our Lady.

The cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its name, Notre Dame, is French for "Our Lady." 

A video clip shared on social media Monday night shows young adults on their knees, watching the cathedral burn, holding Rosary beads and singing the "Hail Mary" in French. Some of the people praying appear to be holding back tears.

After Notre Dame's roof and spire collapsed Monday night, there were concerns that the interior of the cathedral would be in ruins. But photos of the wreckage indicate that the cathedral's ribbed vaults, a key feature of Gothic architecture, managed to protect most of the interior from the collapsing remnants of the roof and spire.

The sanctuary area suffered a lot of damage, though. The altar facing the people was damaged by falling debris, but the high altar seems in better shape. Even so, when emergency crews entered the cathedral after the fire, the whole interior was dark except a stunning gold cross above the altar.

Father Jean-Marc Fournier, a chaplain for Paris' fire service, ran into Notre Dame alongside firemen Monday night to save pieces of sacred art, the relic of Jesus' Crown of Thorns and other relics, as well as the Blessed Sacrament. Reports state that Fr. Fournier led a "human chain" to remove the artworks and relics as the massive fire raged overhead.

Metal statues that surrounded Notre Dame's steeple had been taken down for repair and restoration just a few days before the fire. The 16 statues of the Apostles and Evangelists were removed by crane last week. Ironically, the same restoration campaign that might have caused the fire is also what saved these statues.

French Minister of Culture Franck Riester tweeted photos showing numerous candle stands, statues and other sacred items being removed from the cathedral Monday night.

Among the items saved from the fire at Notre Dame were relics of Pope St. John Paul II and an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, according to a Polish report.

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