The Fire of the Century: The Hope Behind the Rubble and the History of Notre Dame

Notre Dame is a Gothic “pièce de résistance” of French history that famously took 107 years to build and has since stood the test of time for centuries to come. The Notre Dame Cathedral was built in the year 1163. In its 850 years of history, the cathedral has been reshaped many times, and what it will look like next is a mystery world over. The fire at Notre Dame may be taking the limelight from another tragedy you may have heard of.

In a surprising coincidence, the Titanic sunk on the very same date (April 15th, 1912).

French President Emmanuel Macron assured the world that France would rebuild the cathedral “together,” and began a fundraising effort that has already attracted tycoon companies like Ubisoft, Apple, and even Amazon. More than $670,000,000 were donated within the first 24 hours, with Ubisoft alone donating 500 million dollars to the cause! We Set out to examine what exactly happened that fateful night? How much history were we able to recover? You would not believe the miracles that occurred within the blaze!

The Fire of the Century

At 6:20 pm, Monday of April 15th the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was in the middle of evening mass when an alarm in the building had sounded. The priest hesitated not knowing if it was a heat or smoke alarm and continued the service. The cathedral staff decided swiftly to evacuate the building as a precautionary measured. At 6:43 pm the second alarm had gone off, and a fire was declared.

The Fire of the Century

The steeple and spire engulfed in flames collapses as the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burns on April 15, 2019, in Paris. –  (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Crowded Streets

By 7:10 pm a smoke plume would be visible from a distance, and all of France would come to a standstill in fear for their beloved heritage site. This is a picture of the cathedral on a typical day on the Lle de la Cite. There is only one way into the island and one way out. The streets are full of tourists thus making it impossible for first responders to reach the site in time to extinguish the blaze. On top of that, swarms of people had swarmed around the site to take pictures and observe the catastrophe from up close.

Crowded Streets

Exterior facade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, France (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

A Hard-Fought War

By 7:10 pm, a smoke plume would be visible from a distance. The fire had begun within the roof of the building, with scaffolding all around it. The blaze quickly spread to the 93m-high spire that would very soon collapse through the roof into the chapel. The ribbed roof constructed from mostly oak beams that date back to the 13th. Firefighters fought veraciously to try and tame the flames away from the cathedral bells from collapsing and bringing down the 69m-high towers with them.

A Hard-Fought War

PARIS, FRANCE – APRIL 15: Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Horrifying Scenes

The Notre Dame Cathedral is home to 850 years of French history, and one of the most beloved landmarks of the Catholic religion. Watching it burn down was a horrible ordeal for the world to watch. At 7:20 pm, Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo tweeted from her office just across the river that a “terrible fire” is burning strong in Notre Dame. She went on to repeat instructions from police for people to stay away as the blaze is very dangerous.

Horrifying Scenes

Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral (Photo by FABIEN BARRAU/AFP/Getty Images)

President at the Scene

French President Emmanuel Macron had been rushing to the scene along with his team. At 7:15 pm Notre Dame spokesman, Andre Finot, had been speaking about the 13th and 19th-century timber beams blazing, when the unthinkable happened, and the sky-high spire had collapsed into the cathedral in an almost warlike manner. Macron would later tweet, “Notre Dame has fallen prey to flames … Like all my compatriots, I am saddened this evening to see this part of us burning.”

President at the Scene

Fire rages through the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. (Photo by Philippe Wang/Getty Images)

A Fight into the Night

By 8:15 Paris city had put out a statement saying hundreds of firefighters were at the scene and foreshadowed a long night ahead for the city of Paris, the nation of France, and all of Europe. Prime minister, Edouard Philippe stood outside the cathedral to spectate, as expressions of sorrow from statesmen like Angela Merkel, and Theresa May started to pour in the media.

A Fight into the Night

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (Photo by Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Helplessly Observing

By 8:30 pm, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte had made it to the cathedral accompanied by culture minister, Franck Riester, and interior minister, Laurent Nunez. The Police were able to disperse the scene from crowds who had ended up gathering and growing on the streets surrounding Île de la Cité as some prayed and others sang hymns.

Helplessly Observing

A firefighter is seen fighting the flames at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

Scenes of Darkness

The Scenes from the fire were dark and scary, almost as if hell itself had been swallowing the cathedral, and bringing all of Paris into the depth of sorrow with it. People on the street were crying hysterically, calling loved ones, and praying incessantly. Meanwhile, by ten to nine, several French news outlets had quoted firefighters saying that the next 90 minutes would be “critical” for the survival of Notre Dame.

Scenes of Darkness

Flames and smoke billow around the gargoyles decorating the roof and sides of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. – Photo credit  THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

The View from Above

By 9:15 pm the fire had reportedly reached the north tower as authorities confirmed no one had been killed or injured so far. Fire Chief, Jean-Claude Gallet had said that he had 400 firefighters, two helicopters, and two water trucks on the scene, but despite that, he was skeptical saying he is “not sure of being able to prevent the fire spreading to the north belfry. If that collapses, I will leave you to imagine the scale of the damage.”

The View from Above

An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. Photo credit AFP/Getty Images

Red Sky

During the next few hours, as firefighters struggled with the flames, many worked to save whatever they could from inside. The fire lit the clear French sky red. The oak roof space running the length of the nave looked like a big skeleton burning to oblivion. The people of France could still do nothing but watch, pray, and hope for the best.

Red Sky

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019 in Paris, France.  (Photo by David Cordova/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lighting the Ceiling in Red

As the fire subsided, pictures would start to flow out into the media of the interior of the cathedrals looking like something out of a horror movie. The ceiling glows a dark red and lights up the altar into a hellish atmosphere. Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit requested churches across the city to ring their bells to invite parishioners to pray for the magnificent cathedral.

Lighting the Ceiling in Red

 Flames and smoke are seen as the interior of the Notre-Dame Cathedral continues to burn on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. Photo credit PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images

A Desperate Struggle

The firefighters fought bravely and endlessly to tame the flames. Many news channels across the world were on the site reporting on the under-preparedness of the French authorities to deal with such a fire. There were very few fire trucks with cranes long enough to be able to reach the most critical points of the fire. The best they could do is soak the spots still untouched with water in hopes that their effort would curb the blaze.

A Desperate Struggle

In this handout image provided by Brigade de sapeurs-pompiers de Paris, firefighters battle the blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France.  (Photo by Benoît Moser/BSPP via Getty Images)

Nothing Left but Hope

At 11:40 pm Macron made a speech thanking firefighters, praising their efforts in his address to the world. He said of Notre Dame, “our history, our literature, the epicenter of our life, the standard by which we measure our distances. It’s so many books, so many paintings. It’s the cathedral of every French person, even those who have never visited it. This history is ours. We will rebuild Notre Dame because it is what the French people expect, it is what our history deserves, and it is our deep destiny.”

Nothing Left but Hope

(Photo by Philippe Wang/Getty Images)

A Morning of Mourning

By 3:40 pm fire service spokesman Gabriel Plus had said the fire was completely under control, and Paris prosecutors declared that they would treat the case as “involuntary destruction by fire.” Plus would go on to tell the media, “All the works of art that were in the ‘treasures’ area of the cathedral have been saved,” and by early morning hours France would be quiet with mourning.

A Morning of Mourning

 (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Charred

What was left of the cathedral look on the outside to be grim, and charred. The scope of the damage to the interior became something everyone was waiting to see. Prime minister Nunez stressed that although the danger of the fire was gone, firefighters would still need to assess the stability of the structure before giving permission for any photographers, or media personnel to enter the scene.

Charred

Inspectors are seen on the roof of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 16, 2019, the day after a fire ripped through its main roof.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Media Frenzy

Within minutes of the first reports to the press, media from around the world had flocked as close as they could get to the scene, and live coverage from virtually all news outlets across the globe would be running live for at least two hours straight on the story.

Media Frenzy

British newspaper front pages show the massive blaze that engulfed the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019. (Photo by Ben FATHERS / AFP)

Banding Together

Throughout the night, the people of France were silent, and there was a sense of resilience in overcoming the trauma of watching history and legacy burn in front of their very eyes. They had all watched the spire collapse on live television. The roof would keep collapsing into the night, and media reports of the carnage would only make things worse.

Banding Together

Smokes and flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, France, on April 15, 2019. (Photo by Emeric Fohlen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Inside the Heart of Paris

The cultural devastation the fire could have cause to France would have been irreversible. After all, this was the place where Napoleon had his coronation. The place where Joan of Arch would begin her path to sainthood. Every piece of the cathedral carried with it a different point in French history. Luckily the heroes in the first response team were able to salvage many relished artifacts that were inside at the beginning of the night. You would not believe what they recovered, and what survived the flames.

Inside the Heart of Paris

A picture shows charred debris inside Notre-Dame-de Paris on April 16, 2019, in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)

What Was Salvaged?

The Notre Dame Cathedral is home to priceless works of art, musical instruments, architectural masterpieces, statues, woodwork, religious relics. Efforts to save as much as possible were endless, and luckily there was enough help to get the job done. What was saved could have meant hundreds of years of French history lost to the flames. Let’s look at some of the main relics that made it out by miracle.

What Was Salvaged?

A photo taken on June 26, 2018, shows the heart and transept at the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

A Century’s Old Organ

One thing that could not be evacuated in time, but somehow made it through the night was the 8,000-pipe organ built in the 1730s by Francois Thierry. The organ’s pipes were doubled in the 1860s by Aristide Cavaille-Coll, whom the organ is named after today. Despite not being touched by water or fire, one of the oldest organs in the world would now still have to be taken apart and cleaned from the dust it swallowed through the night.

A Century’s Old Organ

This photograph taken on June 26, 2018, shows the organ at Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The Miracle of Renovation

One big joke always told about the Notre Dame Cathedral is that its “always” under renovation, and you never really get to see everything inside or out because of that. This misgiving turned out to be one of the biggest miracles of the fire, as most of the statues and relics that stood on the roof of the building had been taken down weeks prior due to renovation.

The Miracle of Renovation

A picture taken in Marsac-sur-Isle near Bordeaux, on April 16, 2019 shows statues which sat around the spire of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, stored in SOCRA workshop before restoration. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

The Gargoyles

The Angel and most of the Gargoyle statues had been stored away for quite a while. These statues are hundreds of years old and would have been lost forever had it not been for the renovations. These statues were only scheduled to return to their place in 2022. Was it some sort of a holy spirit that brought about this coincidence?

The Gargoyles

 Sixteen statues located around the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris, those of the 12 apostles and the 4 evangelists are unhooked from the cathedral this Thursday with the help of a crane of more than 100 meters. The statues will then leave for Périgueux to be restored. The absence of the statues will also begin the renovation work of the spire that will last until 2022. Only then will the statues return to their original place. Located around the spire of the cathedral, 50 meters above the ground, the statues dominate the capital since the great restoration of the cathedral directed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 1860s. the features of St. Thomas. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

The Spirit of Charlemagne

On the South side courtyard of Notre Dame stands the statue of Charlemagne or “Charles the Great” overlooking the city of Paris with a war face ready to fight to defend the cathedral at all costs. Charles I, was the King of the Lombards from 774, King of the Franks from 768, and the Holy Roman Emperor from the year 800 until his death 14 years later.

The Spirit of Charlemagne

Statue of Charlemagne on his horse by French sculptors Charles and Louis Rochet in the square in front of the south side of Notre-Dame Cathedral on March 21, 2017 in Paris, FR. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)

The South Side Salvaged

Charlemagne was the father of Louis the Pious, and the famous Pepin the Hunchback. His legacy is rooted deep within the spirit of France, and many say it may have been his spirit that kept the South Side of the Cathedral from burning down completely.

The South Side Salvaged

Statue of Charlemagne on his horse by French sculptors Charles and Louis Rochet in the square in front of the south side of Notre-Dame Cathedral on March 23, 2017 in Paris, FR. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)

Saved Just in Time

Firefighters raced against the clock to save as many relics as they could. Just as the final pieces of art were being taken out of the cathedral, the spire had collapsed. Did they leave anything behind? Where did they take these relics to keep them safe in such desperate times?

Saved Just in Time

 (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Stored at the Paris City Hall

Most of the relics from the scene were hundreds of years old. Priceless, made by some of the best artists and architects in history. These artifacts would be gathered and sorted at city hall. “Agents of the culture ministry, aided by the archbishop’s staff, the Paris fire brigade, and the security services, are evacuating the works inside the cathedral,” Riester said. “They are being progressively brought to safety.”

Stored at the Paris City Hall

(Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Priceless Gems

The Relics were so important to Parisians that some people were insisting on helping to secure them in time. A priest who had treated the wounded during the Bataclan concert hall attack in 2015 had joined a human chain of firefighters to help save everything they could. The Chaplain of the Paris fire brigade had gone in head first to keep all that he could, but not all is known yet of the conditions of what was left inside.

Priceless Gems

Historical artifacts that were saved from Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral are stored in a room of the Paris City Hall on April 16, 2019, in Paris, France. A fire broke out on Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the building, collapsing the spire. The cause is unknown but officials said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Stained Glass Windows

The rose windows were designed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil at a time where it was necessary to ignite the imagination of Parisians who could not read and needed to be able to picture what was in the scriptures. These windows tell the story of Christ and are considered the most beautiful glass art in the world. Did the spirit of Christ help save them?

Stained Glass Windows

Vue du choeur de la cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, dans la Somme, France. (Photo by Jean-Erick PASQUIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Seemingly Okay

After a fire, it is very hard to understand the true scope of damages for at least a couple weeks, and the true magnitude of what may have happened to the Rose windows is still unknown. Maxime Cumunel, secretary general of France’s Observatory for Religious Heritage, told Reuters, “It seems they have not been destroyed for now, although we’ll have to see what real state they’re in and whether they can be restored properly.” We saved the hope for last this time, with some photos of the biggest and most important Catholic relics preserved in the fire, and some pictures from inside.

Seemingly Okay

Views of the Notre Dame de Paris in 2018 in Paris, France.(Photo by Stephen Albanese/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Christs Crown of Thorns

When Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris fire brigade entered the edifice with fellow firefighters. He came out holding In his hands the Crown of Thorns, and the blessed sacrament. The Crown of Thorns is said to be the incased crown that Jesus wore on the day of his crucifixion. Had it not been for the fire fighter’s bravery, it may have burned away never to be seen again.

Christs Crown of Thorns

Christ’s Passion relics at Notre Dame cathedral. The Crown of Thorns (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Statue of the Spire

The Statue of the spire is one of the oldest statues in the Notre Dame Cathedral and stood atop of the spire that had collapsed that night, by some miracle, it was kept in storage during renovations, and will now be able to recover along with the rest of France. Just like these relics, Notre Dame has survived much worse in the past. Let’s look into the history of Notre Dame cathedral, and finish it off with the biggest miracle of the 21st century.

The Statue of the Spire

Patrick Palem, expert of the heritage restoration, shows the head of a one of the statues which sat around the spire of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, stored in SOCRA workshop in Marsac-sur-Isle near Bordeaux, on April 16, 2019, before restoration. – Paris was struck in its very heart as flames devoured the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral, causing a spire to collapse and raising fears over the future of the nearly millennium-old building and its precious artworks. The sixteen statues which sitted around the spire of the cathedral, 12 apostles and the 4 evangelists commissioned in the 1860s during the great restoration of the cathedral by Viollet-le-Duc, have been removed in April to be sent in southwest France for restoration. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

A History of Survival

The Notre Dame Cathedral was built on top of what was once a pagan monastery after the fall o the Roman Empire. Many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered in 1793, during the French Revolution. During WW2 the German Army had been bombing France and by some miracle had missed Notre Dame completely, by 1977 many of the relics lost in the French Revolution were recovered by excavation.

A History of Survival

A photo taken between 22 and 24 August 1944 in Paris during World War II shows a flaming vehicule close to the Pont Saint-Michel and the cathedral Notre-Dame part of the ‘Battle of Paris’ opposing the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) and remaining Nazi forces, a few days before the Liberation of the French capital city on August 25, 1944. Colonel Rol Tanguy, commander of the group the French Forces of the Interior in the Île-de-France, had posters put up on August 21 and 22 calling for barricades to be thrown up all over the city. AFP PHOTO (Photo by – / AFP)

Coronation, Sanctity, and Salvation

The Notre Dame was the site of the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte who had signed an agreement in 1801 to restore the cathedral to the Catholic church. Two Years later it would be the site of his union to his wife, Josephine. It would also be the site of Napoleon’s marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810.

Coronation, Sanctity, and Salvation

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), The Coronation of Empress Josephine by Napoleon I at Notre Dame de Paris, 1807. (Photo By DEA / E. LESSING/De Agostini/Getty Images)

The Beginning

The Notre Dame cathedral’s construction began between 24th of March and 25th of April. Building it would take four phases starting with the laying of the cornerstone in the presence of King Louise VII and Pope Alexander III. It would take another 106 years to finish the Notre Dame with the Crown of Thorns being placed in the cathedral in 1231 by King Louis IX.

The Beginning

18th-century drawing of the front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

Tallest Symbol in Paris

During that time in history, there were only two tall structures any human would ever see. They would be either a castle of a religious institution. Building them tall and proud was the best way to entice peasants into religion, and give them the feeling that there is a holy presence in the air. For hundreds of years, Notre Dame stood as the tallest building in Paris.

Tallest Symbol in Paris

Cathedral Of Notre Dame, Paris, France In The 19Th Century. From French Pictures By The Rev. Samuel G. Green, Published 1878. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The Peoples Cathedral

Notre Dame was known as the people’s cathedral, a large church built in the heart of Paris with the goal of giving everyone home of worship. Even going there today gives people the goosebumps, as its tall structures, and facades give it a godlike charm. If you were not a believer, you were sure to leave one after going inside.

The Peoples Cathedral

The set of the film ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, aka ‘Hunchback’, at Pinewood Studios, 1982. In the background is a replica of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. (Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)

Surviving the Century’s

From the fall of the Roman Empire, the Revolutionary War, WW2, and all the way until today. The Cathedral of Notre Dame has stood the test of time, as its gargoyles kept watch from the sky, and angels kept it blessed from the heavens. If you made it this far, you have earned the right to see the biggest surprise of all. How did the cathedral look inside the day after the fire, and what was the biggest miracle of all?

Surviving the Century’s

Gargoyles on the cathedral of Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite in central Paris. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

After the Flames

The first photos from the aftermath of the fire came on April 16th only 15 hours after the fire had begun. Almost everything inside withstood the heat, except the pews of the chapel. The pillars inside remained intact, and for some odd reason had no char on them what so ever.

After the Flames

(Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

Light Shining Through Darkness

Coming into the Chapel seems to begin with an eerie silence in the air. Darkness surrounds everything with a light shining down into the middle. Amongst all the carnage, one thing stood high and mighty, letting the world know that hope would be restored. Out of the darkness came the light.

Light Shining Through Darkness

TOPSHOT – A picture taken on April 16, 2019, shows an interior view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. -(Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP)

A Message from the Holy Spirit

This golden cross statue sits under the light, with a statue of the Virgin Mary weeping over the death of Jesus on the cross. The rubble around them seems to resemble his mourning disciples kneeling in his honor. The cross lay bare, shining bright as if to say that all hope is not lost, and just like Jesus was resurrected, so too, will be the Notre-Dame de Paris.

A Message from the Holy Spirit

 A picture taken on April 16, 2019, shows the altar surrounded by charred debris inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. – French investigators probing the devastating blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, questioned workers who were renovating the monument on April 16, as hundreds of millions of euros were pledged to restore the historic masterpiece. As firefighters put out the last smouldering embers, a host of French billionaires and companies stepped forward with offers of cash worth around 600 million euros ($680 million) to remake the iconic structure. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)