Anniversary of Notre Dame fire marked under shadow of COVID-19 pandemic

Today is the sad anniversary of the burning of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, a tragedy that is imprinted in the minds of Catholics all over the world.

On April 15 last year, a raging fire destroyed the 800-year-old wooden roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, and burned for 15 hours, melting 300 tons of lead in the scaffolding above the roof, causing its famous spire to collapse.

On the anniversary of the fire, as France battles the COVID-19 pandemic along with the rest of the world, commemoration plans have been cancelled due to the ban on public gatherings. France’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus has also forced a full suspension of restorative work at Notre Dame since March 16, 2020.

As the flames engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral one year ago, two critical moments stand out among many of the first responders in Paris: The moment the Crown of Thorns was retrieved from a glass safe in the reliquary and the decision to send 50 firefighters into the north tower to directly fight the blaze.

The first ensured that one of Christendom’s most prized relics would be saved and the second prevented both of the towers from collapsing, saving the 850-year-old landmark itself.

April 15 will forever be remembered as the day that one of the treasures of Western Civilization was spared destruction.

On Good Friday Archbishop Michel Aupetit returned to Notre Dame for an intimate prayer service

“We are here in this cathedral, which a year ago, burned and partially collapsed causing astonishment and a global impetus to restore this magnificent monument, to witness to the genius of man when he contemplates your transcendence,” said Aupetit.

For a year Notre Dame has been closed, but Catholics across the country have attested to a spiritual reawakening spurred on by the nearly fatal fire of 2019.

“With last year’s fire, secularized France has rediscovered that Notre Dame is in some way the heart of our country,” Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre told Crux.

Rougé pointed to the fact that the famous violinist Renaud Capuçon and French actor Philippe Torreton joined the archbishop for the occasion, a sign of prominence that even in the most secular of states, the meaning of Notre Dame has left an indelible mark on the whole country.

Where is the investigation at to discover the cause of the fire?

Many theories have been considered: terrorism, a malfunctioning electrical system, or a poorly extinguished cigarette. Yet, the precise cause of the fire remains unknown.

“It is an investigation which lasts, which is complex, which is colossal,” said Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz on national radio Europe 1.

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[Sources: adapted from Angelus Press, Cruz, ABC News]

See also:

One year after the fire, a French priest’s tribute to Notre-Dame


Let us recall the magnificent bells of Notre Dame calling the faithful to prayer, and which one day, God willing, will ring out once more above the tumbing spires of Paris.

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