Update: More than €500m pledged to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral

Update: French firefighters have sent a drone over Notre Dame to survey the damage caused by the blaze that engulfed the building on Monday evening.

More than half a billion euro has been donated to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a devastating fire.

It comes from two French billionaires, French oil firm Total and French company L’Oreal.

French tycoon Bernard Arnault and his luxury goods group LVMH pledged €200m towards the reconstruction following a reported €100m donation from billionaire Francois Pinault, chief executive of international luxury group Kering, which owns brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Video: The extent of damage inside Notre Dame.

Total said it would contribute €100m “to help the reconstruction of this architectural jewel”.

Cosmetics maker L’Oreal promised the same amount to rebuild “a symbol of French heritage and of our common history”, while its owners the Bettencourt Meyers family matched that amount.

Other major donations reported include €20m from the holding company of the JCDecaux family, owners of one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies, and €1m from technology consulting firm Capgemini.

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday fully dedicated to the aftermath of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The French presidency says a morning session will be followed by one in the afternoon focusing on the national fundraising campaign and the reconstruction work.

Mr Macron is to speak by phone with Pope Francis.

Denis Jachiet, deputy bishop of the cathedral, said there would be no Easter celebrations in Notre Dame this year.

He said: “It’s impossible to enter into the cathedral so these religious celebrations will take place in other churches.”

“For the religious, I think there is really an invitation to prayer and the internalisation of this situation.”

“The fire department told us that they at first tried to confine this blaze, it was impossible to put it out – no human could have done that."

“But it was certainly possible to contain it. They battled to contain it, to prevent it from spreading from the interior of the spire.

“They succeeded in saving the tower and therefore saved the facade.”

The bishop said the emergency services had worked through the night to remove works of art and take them to safe keeping.

People look at the remains of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

“I feel the greatest sadness for this disaster.

“In around one hour it destroyed something that had spanned almost nine centuries.”

Update: Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of Paris Fire Brigade, is being hailed as a hero after taking part in the recovery of the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Speaking to reporters at the cathedral, Paris’ 15th district mayor Philippe Goujon said Father Fournier insisted on being allowed to enter the edifice with firefighters and played a role in the relic’s rescue.

Father Fournier’s bravery had been noted already after the November 2016 Bataclan attack, when he tended to the injured and prayed over the dead.

According to an interview he gave to Christian Family magazine after that attack, Father Fournier was based in Germany and in the western Sarthe region, before joining the Paris Fire Brigade.

He also served in the Diocese of the French Armed Forces and was based for a time in Afghanistan.

Earlier: All security measures were respected,' says one of five firms working on Notre Dame renovations

A representative of one of the five companies which had been hired to work on renovations to the Notre Dame cathedral’s roof says “we want more than anyone for light to be shed on the origin of this drama”.

Julien le Bras’ company has 12 workers involved in the refurbishment, though none were on site at the time of the fire.

Le Bras insisted that “all the security measures were respected” and “workers are participating in the investigation with no hesitation”.

It has emerged that a French priest has saved two famous artefacts feared missing in the blaze.

Chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, Jean-Marc Fournier, entered the burning building with firefighters last night and saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

Notre Dame Cathedral (left) in 2017 and how it looks today.

French culture minister Franck Riester gave reporters an update on the artefacts housed in the cathedral.

He said: “First of all the treasures, the most precious ones, were saved last night and stored at the Hotel de Ville in Paris, and I’d like to thank the town hall of Paris, and also the teams of ministry of culture, the fire officers and also everyone who really tried to save the crown (of thorns) and various other treasures.

“Some of them will also be placed in the Louvre today or tomorrow, as soon as possible. As far as the major paintings, they will in fact only be withdrawn from Notre Dame probably on Friday morning.

“They have not been damaged but there could be some damage from the smoke so we are going to take them safely and place them in the Louvre where they will be dehumidified and they will be protected, conserved and then restored.”

The minister has said the “most precious treasures” of Notre Dame have been saved from the devastating fire, including the crown of thorns Catholic relic and the tunic of Saint Louis.

Mr Riester told reporters outside the cathedral that other works are being transferred from a storeroom in City Hall to the Louvre on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There, they will be dehumidified, protected and eventually restored.

He said that the cathedral’s greatest paintings will be removed starting on Friday, adding: “We assume they have not been damaged by the fire but there will eventually be damage from the smoke.”

Video: Paris firefighters record devastation of Notre Dame

Earlier: No evidence Notre Dame fire was deliberate, says Paris prosecutor

The Paris prosecutor said there is no evidence of arson in the Notre Dame fire and that they’re working on the assumption that the blaze was an accident.

Remy Heitz says the investigation will be “long and complex.”

Firefighters work at the facade of Notre Dame cathedral today.

Speaking after the blaze was put out, he said five investigators are working on the probe.

He said they will be interviewing workers from five companies that had been hired to work on renovations to the cathedral’s roof, which was where the flames started.

Earlier: 'Our hearts are with our brothers in France,' says top Muslim cleric after devastating Notre Dame fire

Egypt’s top Muslim cleric has expressed sadness over the fire that destroyed part of the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, describing it as a “historic architectural masterpiece”.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s seat of learning, wrote on Facebook: “Our hearts are with our brothers in France.”

Handout image from Pompiers de Paris showing the scene of the fire at Notre Dame cathedral.

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault who earlier said he is pledging to donate €100m to rebuild the cathedral said it is a "symbol of spirituality and our common humanity".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the businessman said he expects others to follow suit as "it has to be a collective endeavour" to renovate the Parisian landmark, saying that "everyone with means and recourse should participate".

He said it was a "shock" to see the building on fire last night:

"We need to rebuild collectively this part of our history, of our culture, so it's an urgent, urgent need to move forward, so I decided to unlock a very important amount of money to do that."

Asked if others from around the world could join him in donating money, he said: "Everyone is welcome, it goes beyond France, it's a symbol of our culture, a symbol of spirituality and our common humanity."

Mr Pinault said the money, which comes from his family's personal wealth and not his retail empire Kering, comes with no strings attached or "ownership" as to how it is used to repair Notre Dame.

French politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan praised businessmen Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault for "setting an example" by pledging millions of pounds to repair the building.

Speaking to press in front of Notre Dame, he said: "All the Parisians who have gathered on the banks have demanded an inquiry to understand what happened - is it an accident and why such an accident?

"How can all of this burn? It's terrible - or, is it more serious?

"I think the French are asking themselves this question."

He added: "The French want to know what happened and we have to give them the truth."

Mr Dupont-Aignan, who founded the political party Debout la France in 1999, added: "The state will need to devote millions, and it will take decades [to repair] and when we look at the damage, it is a tragedy.

"What can we do to understand how that happened and what can we do to prevent it happening to other monuments in our country?"

He said it would be a "good thing" if the process of rebuilding Notre Dame became a means of uniting France.

Earlier: Entire Notre Dame fire 'fully extinguished'; French billionaire pledges €200m for restoration

Paris’ deputy mayor said Notre Dame’s organ, one of the biggest and most famous in the world, remains intact after the fire.

Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV that a plan to protect the cathedral’s treasures had been rapidly and successfully activated.

A man kneels as people come to watch and photograph the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire.

The organ dates to the 1730s and was constructed by Francois Thierry. It boasts an estimated 8,000 pipes.

Mr Gregoire also described “enormous relief” at the salvaging of pieces such as the purported Crown of Christ.

Update: The blaze at Notre Dame cathedral is fully extinguished, Paris firefighters have confirmed.

A spokesman for Paris firefighters said that “the entire fire is out” at Notre Dame.

Gabriel Plus said emergency services are currently “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smouldering residues”.

Mr Plus said that now the fire is out, “this phase is for the experts” to plan how to consolidate the edifice.

Update: The Paris Fire Service, Pompiers de Paris, said on Twitter that Notre Dame's structure and artworks had been saved.

It said: "The structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been safeguarded, thanks to the combined action of the various state services committed to our side."

They also reported that two police officers and one firefighter had been injured while tackling the blaze.

The fire service said: “After more than nine hours of fierce fighting, nearly 400 Paris firefighters came to grips with the terrible fire. Two police officers and one firefighter were slightly wounded.”

The relic of the crown of thorns and a number of priceless artefacts were taken from the cathedral to Paris City Hall for safekeeping.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault and his group LVMH have pledged €200m towards Notre Dame's reconstruction.

Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Notre Dame to establish the next steps to save what remains of the structure.

French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez announced that architects and other experts would meet at the cathedral early on Tuesday "to determine if the structure is stable and if the firefighters can go inside to continue their work".

A French cultural heritage expert said France no longer has trees big enough to replace ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire.

Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio that the wooden roof that went up in flames was built with beams more than 800 years ago from primal forests.

He said the cathedral's roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because "we don't, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century".

He said the restoration work will have to use new technologies in order to rebuild the roof.

Earlier: Heartbreak for France as huge fire ravages Notre Dame Cathedral

A catastrophic fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral has left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic “epicentre” and sent shockwaves around the world.

Hundreds of firefighters tackled the historic blaze through the night, battling to stop it wreaking complete destruction of the treasured facade after flames torched the roof, sending its spire crashing to the ground before crowds of horrified Parisians.

Meanwhile, teams raced to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, which housed priceless artefacts and relics of huge religious and international significance.

The blaze, which broke out as the last crowds of tourists ended visits at around 6pm BST (7pm local time), was finally declared to be “completely under control” nearly nine hours later.

However, it is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous edifice.

Attention is beginning to turn to what may have caused the landmark, part of which was being restored, to fall victim to such a disaster.

The Paris prosecutors’ office said police will carry out an investigation into “involuntary destruction caused by fire”, indicating authorities are treating the blaze as a tragic accident for now.

Arson, including possible terror-related motives, was earlier ruled out.

(PA Graphics)

Visiting the scene on Monday night, French president Emmanuel Macron said a national subscription would be launched to rebuild the national monument.

It was reported by AFP that billionaire French fashion mogul Francois-Henri Pinault had pledged €100m towards the effort.

“Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we’ve lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives,” Mr Macron said.

“It’s the story of our books, our paintings. It’s the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens.”

Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral collapses (Dominique Bichon/AP)

The first harrowing images from within the fire-ravaged cathedral began to emerge as firefighters brought the blaze under control.

A smouldering pile of what appeared to be the charred remains of the roof and spire lay smoking in front of the altar, while a cross that had escaped destruction glowed from within the gloom.

Gilded candlesticks, artworks and furnishings were among the treasures seen being rushed from the cathedral by a “human chain” before being bundled into trucks by police officers.

Some of the cathedral’s most precious objects, including a relic purported to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ on the cross, were whisked away to a secure facility.

Franck Riester, the French culture minister, tweeted that “Major parts of the treasure #NotreDame are now safe at the Paris City Hall”.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo added: “The Crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.”

Despite fire racing through Notre Dame’s roof, firefighters were able to prevent the blaze consuming the cathedral’s main structure, including its two bell towers.

There were hopes that the three famous rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, avoided catastrophic damage, while the bells that have rung out at key moments in France’s history were thought to be safe.

Concerns over the scale of the damage to Notre Dame came as expressions of grief were sent to Paris from around the world.

We will rebuild

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called the fire "devastating" for Parisians.

"Terrible to see Notre Dame ablaze tonight," he tweeted.

"Such an iconic cultural landmark. Devastating for the people of Paris who are watching history burning."

British Prime Minister Theresa May sent her wishes to the French capital from her walking holiday with her husband in Wales, where she is spending the beginning of parliamentary recess.

“My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre Dame cathedral,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: “Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic #NotreDame fire – and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous.”

There were also messages of support from US president Donald Trump, former leaders Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and a stream of world leaders.

Notre Dame is one of Paris’s oldest and most recognisable buildings, and work began on it in 1163.

The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to “Our Lady of Paris”.

Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year – more than 30,000 every day on average – according to its official website, and it is believed to be one of the most visited structures in the French capital.

Renovation works to fix Notre Dame’s historic stone walls and buttresses were estimated to cost around €150m.

- Press Association

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