Notre Dame marks anniversary of cathedral fire

(PARIS) — On April 15 last year, a fire destroyed the 800-year-old wooden roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, causing irreparable damage to the inside of the landmark. The fire, which burned for 15 hours, melted 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 canceled 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.

Cleaning and restoration efforts have been at a standstill since March 16.

“Gen. [Jean-Louis] Georgelin made the decision to ‘put the site to sleep,’ in particular, because the current decontamination facilities do not allow implementing, for the benefit of those involved, the rules of security relating to coronavirus,” including social distancing, the spokesperson of the public establishment responsible for the conservation and restoration of Notre Dame, Jérémie Patrier-Leitus, told ABC News.

Despite doubts from architects, President Emmanuel Macron has pushed to complete restoration in five years, a goal which Gen. Georgelin has so far defended but is now threatened by measures to stem COVID-19.

Where is the investigation at?

The cause of the fire has been subject to conspiracy theories blaming terrorism, which officials ruled out in an investigation. Others attributed the cause to 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.

“Today, a year after the fire, we continue to receive donations,” according to the director general of the Notre Dame foundation Christophe Rousselot.

Donations and pledges to restore the cathedral total €902 million — from individuals contributing a few dollars to huge gifts from patrons including Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, and billionaire François Pinault.

And donations came from all over. North Americans accounted for 1.2 million euros while 48.1 million came from French donors and 2.9 million from the rest of the world.

A group of friends from Texas were on a tourist trip to Paris at the time of the fire.

“When they came back from their amazement, they spontaneously introduced themselves later in the offices of the Notre Dame Foundation in order to issue a participation check,” said Rousselot.

Meanwhile, there’s been no decision made on Notre Dame’s final design — with some calling for reconstructing the spire of Viollet-Le-Duc identical to how it was, or designing a “contemporary architectural gesture” as President Macron suggested.

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