On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out below the roof of the Notre Dame cathedral, destroying the cathedral's spire and roof. Thankfully, due to its vaulted ceiling made of stone, the interior of the cathedral escaped being extensively damaged. In particular, the cathedral's three pipe organs, as well as its three 13th century stained glass windows, suffered almost no damage. French authorities ruled out any criminal culpability. Instead, it's thought that an electrical fault, or possibly a stubbed out cigarette, was the probable cause of the fire.
Notre Dame cathedral is one of the world's most treasured relics, and was built in the 12th century. Although it's walls and vaulted ceiling were made of stone, the roof, largely destroyed in the fire, was wooden, made from 13th century oak. Most of the Cathedral's priceless treasures, though, were rescued. These included the crown of thorns thought to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, as well as a piece of the cross. Also rescued was the 14th century 'Virgin of Paris' statue.
Possible Health Hazard
The fire did, however, melt more than 300 tons of lead which had covered the wooden roof for waterproofing. The fumes from the fire had spread out across a wide area of the city. Initially, the authorities determined that there was no risk to the public. However, it's now thought that the possibility of lead poisoning within the community may very well be a real concern. Tests are currently being conducted to determine how many of the adjacent streets may have to be closed off and cleaned.
Within a week of the fire, donors around the world had pledged more than one billion dollars for Notre Dame's reconstruction. The actual reconstruction of the roof of Notre Dame has yet to begin. Work has so far been aimed at evaluating the damage and reinforcing the structure. Later, a contest will be held to pick a design for the spire, which had been most recently been rebuilt in the 19th century. However, it's estimated that the complete reconstruction could take between 20 to 40 years!
Notre Dame is one of the most beloved treasures in the world. Paris is, of course, home to many of the world's greatest art treasures. To get an idea of others, check out this post.