In our special report ‘Saving Notre-Dame’, we followed events as they unfolded in Paris. Combining eyewitness accounts, field reporting and expert insights, Euronews charts 800 years of history falling to ashes in a few hours. Below are edited excerpts from the programme.
As French authorities raced to rescue relics from the burning Notre-Dame, world leaders lined up to express solidarity. Among the first to react on Monday night was the French President Emmanuel Macron.
Hours later, the US President also tweeted in support.
Euronews correspondent Anelise Borges was at the scene capturing the reactions of Parisians in front of the cathedral. In a live broadcast with anchor Isabelle Kumar, she described the streets around Île de la Cité – where the cathedral is located - as “absolutely packed”.
“The flames going up, the thick smoke that has now covered parts of the sky of Paris. There are helicopters flying by the Church but all around me there are just thousands of residents and tourists, like many people crying, expressing their pain in watching this monument that is so important for the city - in a religious aspect - but also just a monument that has become one of the symbols of Paris.”
Eyewitness account and videos were crucial to our coverage in following the story.
Our team at the social media newsdesk – The Cube – were tracking developments across social networks. Host Alex Morgan looked at tweets before, during and after the blaze.
“What makes it particularly heartbreaking is this tweet from the official accounts of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It says the sun rising over the works,”
“The works they're referring to, you can see here from the roof which has now gone. These works here, you can see the poles, the scaffolding. This tweet was the view from what is now the centre of that fire. The fire described by us to us by eyewitnesses as shooting through this building. There was a real sense that among the cathedral anyway that these works heralded a great new chapter - a vital chapter.”
We were joined by historical buildings expert Benjamin Mouton who held the post of the chief architect at Notre Dame for 13 years. He gave us his thoughts about what might have caused the incident.
“The fire seems to have begun in the spire but after the spire fell down. The problem is the load of the spire is huge and the vault which is underneath is not so strong. So [it’s not clear if the vault] was strong enough to support the spire or not."
Cultural and historical significance
The cathedral was home to some of the most praised artefacts in Catholicism, such as the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus before his crucifixion as well as the tunic worn by Saint Louis, a 13th-century king of France (Louis IX). Both of these relics were saved from the fire.
Arguably, the landmarks biggest claim to fame was Victor Hugo's 'Hunchback Of Notre Dame'. The novel Immortalized the French Cathedral and inspired an equally celebrated Disney animation in 1996. It’s not a coincidence that following Monday's fire, Hugo's novel has topped Amazon's best-seller list in France.
The Walt Disney Company is also joining the slew of companies and billionaires donating for the cathedral’s repair by pledging $5 million (€4,45M).