Catastrophic fire engulfs Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Initial reports suggest that the many relics were saved from the blaze

Notre Dame Cathedral burns on April 15. (Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty images)

Catholics around the world watched with horror as the roof of Cathedrale Notre-Dame was engulfed with flames on Monday afternoon. The blaze began shortly after the church closed for visitors, and everyone was evacuated safely, though the entirety of the roof collapsed into the church.

Here are five things you may not know about the church that has often been called the “Queen of Cathedrals.

1. Building was an 182-year process

Rome was not built in a day, and neither was Notre-Dame. Construction of the cathedral began in 1160 and took nearly two centuries. While most work was done by 1260, it was finally completed in 1345.

2. It’s home to many relics

The most famous relic located in Notre-Dame is the crown of thorns believed to have been placed upon Jesus Christ during his scourging. The cathedral also contains a piece of the true cross and one of the nails used in the crucifixion, plus relics of many French saints. Initial reports suggest that the relics were saved from the blaze.

3. It’s not actually owned by the Archdiocese of Paris

Due to France’s laws regarding secularization, the French government owns all churches built before 1905, including Notre-Dame. The government lets the Archdiocese of Paris use the building for free, and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The Archdiocese of Paris is responsible for the upkeep of the church, as well as for paying employees.

4. It is the most-visited site in Europe

With 12 to 13 million visitors annually, Cathedrale Notre-Dame has more visitors than anywhere else in Europe.

5. It has been destroyed before

While Monday’s fire was certainly the most extensive damage ever done to Notre-Dame, this is hardly the first time she has undergone structural trauma. In WWII, nearly all of the glass was broken when Paris was bombed, and Huguenots destroyed icons and statues during the sixteenth century.

During the French Revolution, Notre-Dame was ransacked and re-dedicated to the “Goddess Reason.” The building itself was used at that time for wine storage. The Church resumed use of the building in 1801.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.


  1. St. Christopher says

    Listen to Frank Walker of Canon212 regarding his take on the burning of the Church. He could be correct.

    • I just re-read Frank Walker of Cannon 212 comments on his Twitter feed. Could there possibly anyone more biased and inflammatory than he? His comments about the fire at Notre Dame are those of true racists. Most of his other feeds tend to be about as anti-Catholic as you can get. He is a danger to the faith. He only pretends to be Catholic, while his site is one that spews hatred against the Church.

    • I say: those who buy into the attitude of people like Walker must be scratching their heads wondering where all of the outpouring of sympathy for the Church/Catholicism/France is coming from. People, you are seeing an achievement of Vatican II in action–a Council which thrust the Church outward into the world, evangelizing it, and engaging it. Proof? It is not just devout French Catholics who are deeply affected by the fire, but also Jews, non-Catholics, devout secularists, the nones, young people….everyone, people. A Church turned in on itself, which the Church would still be in were it not for the Council, would not be getting the kind of heartfelt sympathy she is getting now in France and all over the world.

      • Anonymous says

        The proof that Vatican II succeeded is that some people feel bad about a Church burning down. That is good to know. I never thought about it that way. I guess we should not worry about most Catholics not accepting what the Church teaches. Being accepted by a society that rejects God’s teachings is more important. Someone should have told the Old Testament Prophets about that. They could have saved themselves the trouble of getting put to death.

      • Commentator says

        Do more people mourn the loss now than would have mourned it if it had happened, say, in 1950? Where’s your scientific control group supporting your musings? What was Pope Paul referring to when he spoke of the Smoke of Satan entering the Church? “If the world hates you, remember it hated Me first.”

      • Right. “Anonymous” reply is called “straw-man”—it caricatures the other’s point, distorting it, until it’s unrecognizable. What “Anonymous” displays is a breathtaking lack of faith. If the devout secular folks, the “nones”, young unbelievers, and even old ones, the agnostics, and even atheists who feel remorse and sadness because of the fire could have their faith ignited at the wake of all of this, then that is the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Church will be right there to minister to them. Thankfully, Pope Francis and the bishops who have taken their cue from the Council are well-equipped to reach out to a starving world, starving of meaning. God bless the Council.

        • Anonymous says

          jon is now acting like he didn’t write his first comment. What jon displays here is a breathtaking lack of honesty. Deception is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Beware of fake prophets.

        • Fast track says

          All the while Catholics leave the Church in droves, and the Pope advocates the Islamification of Europe.

      • people, just the fact that all sorts of people, who are not even Catholic, should feel that they TOO have lost something because of the fire, IS a testament to what the Second Vatican Council has achieved for the past four to five decades since the Council: solidarity with the wider world while at the same time proclaiming the Gospel. Without the Council, a Church still closed in on itself would not have received this kind of sympathy from those outside the Church. Just read this bit from the Council’s Gaudium et Spes: “Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue…

        • and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.”

        • A Church that rejects the teaching of Jesus Christ has no Gospel to spread nor truth to give witness too.

          • By the way, to say that the Catholic Church has “rejected the teachings of Christ” is heretical. The Church is indefectible when she teaches on matters of faith and morals for it is the Holy Spirit Himself who guards the Church from error on these matters. This is Catholic dogma, people.

          • Anonymous says

            Most Catholics do reject the teachings of Jesus Christ. Only on paper does the Church remain faithful to Jesus Christ. In practice, Catholics break his commandments, and by so doing, teach others to break his commandments.

  2. Clinton R. says

    So sad to see. May the Cathedral be restored to its splendor, and May France come back to the Catholic Faith. +JMJ+

    • Your Fellow Catholic says

      Even my most atheistic friends are saying what a tragedy this is. One even posted as such as a “heathen”. How can we use this tragedy as an opportunity to those moved by the Church’s legacy but distanced by its faults?

      • Clinton R. says

        Very good question. Hopefully the Grace of God will stir in the hearts of all men. The Church is holy not because we are holy, but because Christ is Holy. The sight of the Altar Cross and the Pieta remaining after the fire is very inspiring and a sign to us that God is always with us.

  3. The terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral made me CRY!! May the beautiful, holy Notre Dame Cathedral be fully restored to her former glory, and may all France return to the Catholic Faith– and produce many more great Saints!

    • Anonymous says

      The terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral reminds us that we Catholics need to bring back a strong devotion to Our Lady! She alone can crush the deadly serpent of sin, as the great and holy Mother of God— and lead us straight to her Divine Son, Jesus, in Heaven!

  4. Gabriel Espinosa says

    Jenkins refuses to put porn filters in the WiFi network of Notre Dame University here in the USA and a few days later this happens. Coincidence?

  5. Save me the hunt. What does Mr. Walker say? One hundred characters should suffice. Thanks.

  6. The destruction of this very beautiful Cathedral is heartbreaking. Undoubtedly, some will claim it is a punishment from God for some sin. As Christians we believe God is love and it is difficult to reconcile a God of love with such claims. Notre Dame will rise again…just as Jesus did.

  7. The fiery burning of Notre Dame is so symbolic of Catholicism in France. The secular world, with the help of errant Bishops in France, has long burned down Catholcism—-now they have abortion, homosex, and general rejection of the teachings of Christ.

    Another recent example to illustrate my point would be the grand Catholic funeral at St Roche in Paris for fashionr designed Yves St Laurent. YSL was a dedicated homosexual with a “husband” named Pierre.
    Watch the Mass for yourself—the mortal sin of homosex is dignified and embraced..

    Yes, the burning of Notre Dame is regetted more for its value as a tourist attraction than as a Catholic place to worship.

    • Anonymous says

      Many many if not most miedeval cathedrals have already burned. It’s a miracle Notre Dame lasted this long, and while very very sad, it’s not actually a surprise. It’s not about any kind of rejection of the teachings of Christ. Wouldn’t Christ want to preserve his Churches if that is what it’s about? Have you ever toured Europe? Maybe the message is that we need to carry Christ into the world instead of hiding Christ in a tourist trap.

      • Anonymous says

        Beloved Notre Dame Cathedral is certainly not a “tourist trap!” Ignorant people may sometimes call it that– but that is because they do not know Our Lord. And no– Our Lord is not “hiding” in a great Cathedral. A church or cathedral is His holy house, where He dwells in the Blessed Sacrament. And the Catholic Faithful may come and find Him there, in holiness, awe and silence– and kneel down, to worship Him.

      • Wake up call says

        No, Christ would not. Christ is not going to step in and preserve something that means nothing or represents nothing to people, or enough people. He doesn’t protect us from sin that we willfully commit either. We’re free to hang ourselves.

  8. One of the true heroes of all this was Fr. Jean-Marc Founier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade. He rushed into the cathedral and saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns and other relics. He was the same priest who also helped save people at the Bataclan when the Islamic State Militants were killing people in France, He also survived an ambush in Afghanistan.

    God bless and protect him for all this.

  9. May have been a Holy Week present from our adversaries. No cause proven for the fire yet.

  10. Correction: “They were brought out in a human chain”.

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