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.
BREAKING NEWS: Paris: Another Video shows spire at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral partly collapsing following major fire: pic.twitter.com/jvdJgOMoUd— BNL NEWS (@BreakingNLive) April 15, 2019
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.
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.
A silver lining— Catholic Arena (@CatholicArena) April 16, 2019
On Holy Week, the most important time in the Catholic calendar
The whole world witnessed young French Catholics, alive in their faith, chanting the beautiful Ave Maria and other prayers #holyweek #NotreDame pic.twitter.com/yAycum9Jyw
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.
I am in awe at the devastation caused by the fire... and saddened at the loss of this great and wondrous Cathedral. But I am especially heartbroken for those directly affected by this...those who worshipped in there. #NotreDame pic.twitter.com/qsowgsRBGc— HEATHER T (@sassyscorpio_78) April 16, 2019
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.
Les agents du @MinistereCC, épaulés par les équipes de l’archevêché, les @PompiersParis et les forces de sécurité, évacuent les œuvres se trouvant à l’intérieur de la cathédrale. Elles sont progressivement mises en sécurité. #NotreDame pic.twitter.com/iINHyUqJME— Franck Riester (@franckriester) April 15, 2019