Paris, France, Apr 15, 2019 / 02:23 pm (CNA).- Both the Holy See and the Archbishop of Paris have encouraged prayer while firefighters in the French capital battle a blaze on the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris.
“To all the priests of Paris: The firefighters are still fighting to save the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof, and the spire are consumed. Let us pray. If you wish, you may ring the bells of your churches as an invitation to prayer,” Archbishop Michel Aupetit Tweeted April 15.
The Holy See press office stated that it has received the news of the fire “with shock and sadness,” calling Notre-Dame de Paris “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
“We express closeness to the Catholics of France and to the population of Paris and assure them of our prayers for the firemen and those doing everything possible in the face of this dramatic situation.”
Firefighters responded to an alarm rasied shortly before 7pm, April 15. The spire of the cathedral, which stood 226 feet tall, collapsed shortly before 8pm.
The fire continues to burn within the main structure.
Construction on the Gothic-style cathedral began over 850 years ago and took nearly 200 years to fully complete. Its foundation stone was laid in 1162, and the high altar was consecrated 26 years later.
The 223 foot-high towers were built between 1210 and 1250, and the church was officially completed in 1345. The central spire— the epicenter of Monday’s fire— was added during a 19th century renovation.
Relics in the cathedral include Christ’s crown of thorns, and a fragment of the true Cross. Initial reports say these relics were spared from damage during the fire.
Officials had been in the process of a massive fundraising effort to renovate the cathedral against centuries of decay, pollution, and a flow of 13 million visitors annually. French conservationists and the archdiocese announced in 2017 that the renovations needed for the building’s structural integrity could cost as much as $112 million to complete.
A major campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991–2000.