IN PICTURES | Iconic Notre-Dame before & after the devastating fire

16 April 2019 - 11:53 By AFP
The cause of the fire that ravaged the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is unknown but officials said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work.
The cause of the fire that ravaged the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is unknown but officials said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work.
Image: Chesnot/Getty Images

Shards of stained glass from priceless medieval windows, and a gaping hole above the choir area where the spire crashed down: daylight reveals the extent of damage at Notre-Dame cathedral on Tuesday morning as firefighters put out the last smouldering remains of the fire.

Philippe Marsset, the vicar general of Notre-Dame, was among the first to enter the storied Gothic cathedral whose sculpted arches have been blackened by smoke and pews destroyed.

"It felt like I was looking at a bombing," Marsset said of the church where he was ordained a priest 31 years ago.

"It was hell," he said, describing the moment when the blaze was discovered on the soaring roof shortly after evening mass ended on Monday evening.

Notre-Dame prior to the devastating blaze on April 15 2019.
BEFORE Notre-Dame prior to the devastating blaze on April 15 2019.
Image: 123RF/zhoto
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from Notre-Dame on April 15 2019; the blaze destroyed its towering spire and parts of the roof.
DURING Flames and smoke are seen billowing from Notre-Dame on April 15 2019; the blaze destroyed its towering spire and parts of the roof.
Image: Chesnot/Getty Images
A closer look at Notre-Dame's roof and iconic spire before the blaze.
BEFORE A closer look at Notre-Dame's roof and iconic spire before the blaze.
Image: 123RF/krugli
A closer look at the fire damage to the roof of Notre-Dame.
AFTER A closer look at the fire damage to the roof of Notre-Dame.
Image: Chesnot/Getty Images
A view of Notre-Dame showing its iconic Gothic spire.
A view of Notre-Dame showing its iconic Gothic spire.
Image: 123RF/breeze09
The fire destroyed the roof of Notre-Dame as well as its Gothic spire.
AFTER The fire destroyed the roof of Notre-Dame as well as its Gothic spire.
Image: Chesnot/Getty Images
Notre-Dame's roof and Gothic spire.
BEFORE Notre-Dame's roof and Gothic spire.
Image: 123RF/frimufilms
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof of Notre-Dame on April 15 2019.
DURING Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof of Notre-Dame on April 15 2019.
Image: Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Church officials raced to remove as many artefacts, paintings and other cultural treasures they could before being evacuated by firefighters as they tried to stop the flames from spreading.

But the blaze kept springing up as globs of molten lead fell from the soaring heights of the church.

"All night long I saw men going past with tears in their eyes. I described it this way: It was total chaos, but we can't let it knock us down," Marsset said. "This church was built 850 years ago. It withstood the wars, it withstood the bombings, it resisted everything," he said.

Yet not all was lost: the crucifix standing over the main altar was one of several objects which escaped destruction.

The interior of Notre-Dame.
BEFORE The interior of Notre-Dame.
Image: 123RF/ewastudio
Notre-Dame's incredible vaulted ceiling.
BEFORE Notre-Dame's incredible vaulted ceiling.
Image: 123RF/menny17

On the banks of the river Seine, hundreds of Parisians and tourists stopped by on Tuesday morning to take pictures or gaze at the disaster site, many still stunned by the damage.

"This isn't some little church that was damaged — it's the symbol of the history of France and of Paris," Marsset said, noting that all distances from Paris are calculated from the square in front of Notre-Dame.

But in the end there was relief that much was able to be saved, with much of stonework as well as the two massive square bell towers largely unscathed.

Most of the emblematic rose windows of medieval stained glass were also spared, including the huge round window dominating the church's intricately carved western facade.

"We're all just dumbfounded. It's more than miraculous, it's heroic," Marsset said, calling the firefighters who toiled throughout the night "heroes".

Notre-Dame the day after the massive fire that ravaged its roof.
AFTER Notre-Dame the day after the massive fire that ravaged its roof.
Image: Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A view of the entrance of Notre-Dame; note the spire visible between the two towers.
BEFORE A view of the entrance of Notre-Dame; note the spire visible between the two towers.
Image: 123RF/tigristiara

But he appeared lost for words when asked about what would happen now, as Christians worldwide prepared to celebrate Easter next Sunday.

"We had things planned for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — We don't yet know where to do these. It's as if our mother has been wounded," he said.

"My bed was right there," he adds, pointing towards the cathedral, where smoke continued to rise into the sky Tuesday morning.

"It's not the Notre-Dame (Our Lady) of Catholics. It's Notre-Dame of France, Notre-Dame of the world," he adds.

"The church is burning, and the entire world is crying."


X