The gothic cathedral in the Sixteenth century of Nantes, in western France, was damaged Saturday by a fire, rapidly circumscribed, a year after the one that destroyed a part of Our-Lady of Paris.
A investigation for “volunteer fire” was opened, because “three points of fire separate” were found, indicated to the AFP the prosecutor of the Republic of Nantes Pierre Sennès.
“At this stage, an investigation is initiated for arson, there is no conclusion to be drawn now because we still have a lot of surveys to do which can bring in new items”, he stated.
In the centre of the city, around 7: 45 am (5.45 am GMT), the “passers-by who saw flames behind the rose” have alerted the emergency services, according to the fire department, and revived painful memories of the fire of the jewel of the medieval art in Paris on April 15, 2019.
A thick plume of black smoke billowing from the huge stained-glass window of the facade of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul and rose above the city centre, can be seen on images of the AFPTV.
Firefighters discover then “a violent fire at the level of the organ located behind the escutcheon and the action is concentrated on this fireplace”, according to the departmental director of firefighters, the general Laurent Ferlay.
The emergency services have also “made a reconnaissance of the building and of the protection of works of art, in conjunction with the authorities of the cathedral”.
Thanks to hundreds of firefighters and a quarantine gear, the fire was relatively quickly contained. The fire department announced that it was “confined” to 10h00 (08h00 GMT).
According to the first elements, “the damage is concentrated on the great organ, which appears to be completely destroyed. The platform on which it is located is very unstable and threatens to collapse,” said Mr Ferlay.
The damage, however, may only be compared to the fires of Notre-Dame de Paris in 2019, to that of this same cathedral in 1972 or the Saint-Donatien in Nantes in 2015, he added.
Following the fire of 72, the roof was redone in reinforcement concrete, has he said.
The administrator of a diocese, the father Francis Renaud, responsible for the cathedral, which was able to return with the fire to the interior of the building has indicated to the AFP that, “the great organ had disappeared completely”. “It is very impressive and it is an immeasurable loss”, he added, and moved.
“The organ console choir has gone up in smoke with the wood stalls adjoining. Behind the great organ, there are original stained glass windows which have all been shattered. It is a glass full of the Sixteenth,” which has been destroyed, he added.
The prime minister, Jean Castex will be Saturday afternoon at the cathedral with the ministers of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, and Culture, Roselyne Bachelot.
The president and Emmanuel Macron, for its part, tweeted his support to our firefighters who risk everything to save this gothic gem of the city of the Dukes”.
The building of the cathedral of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, in flamboyant gothic style, has lasted several centuries (from 1434 to 1891), with towers, erected in 1508 to a height of 63 metres.
“During the Second world War, it suffered under the Allied bombardments in June 1944 which destroyed the sacristy and a part of the ambulatory south”, indicates the site of the cathedral.
In 1972, the claim was declared as a result of the work done by a roofer. The cathedral could not be made to worship, in may 1985, after more than 13 years of work.
The fire has raised concerns, in a first step a scenario to the of Our Lady, badly damaged in April 2019 by a fire against which firefighters fought for fifteen hours.
In June, the prosecutor had indicated to favour the track accidentally, referring to a cigarette badly off, or an electrical malfunction in the heart of Our Lady.