This combination of file photographs shows the steeple Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral - (left) taken on June 26, 2018 showing sculptures and the steeple and (right) the steeple of the landmark cathedral collapsing as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron of France has vowed that Notre Dame cathedral will be rebuilt, as prosecutors begin investigating what caused the fire on Monday that badly damaged the 850-year-old symbol of Paris and caused its thin spire to collapse in smoke and flames. Macron said an international effort to raise funds for reconstruction had begun on Tuesday.

“We will rebuild Notre Dame,” he said as he visited the site on Monday night. “Because that is what the French expect.”

However, experts said that the reconstruction could take decades, even as its most senior cleric expressed hope he could celebrate mass there within years.

A woman cries as people look at Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral engulfed in flames from the Paris's Hotel de Ville esplanade. Image Credit: AFP

Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral, which recently underwent a three-year facelift, said: “I’d say decades.”

“The damage will be significant. But we are lucky in France to still have a network of excellent heritage restoration companies, whether small-time artisans or bigger groups,” he said.

Fischer said the ability to rebuild the colossal cathedral in a manner that respects its original form and character would depend on the plans, diagrams and other materials available to the architects.

Fallen debris from the burnt-out roof structure sits near the high altar inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday. Image Credit: Bloomberg

They would need “a maximum of historical data or more recent data gathered with modern technology such as 3D scans” of the kind used in the restoration of the Strasbourg cathedral, he said.
But Jack Lang, who served as a hugely prominent culture minister under the presidency of Francois Mitterrand, called for a much quicker turnaround.

“Since yesterday, I’ve been hearing that it will take a decade. That’s a joke,” an indignant Lang told AFP outside the cathedral on Tuesday.

Pointing to the renovations in Strasbourg, he said: “We have to do the same thing here, not in 10-15 years but three years.”

Saved treasures from Notre Dame Cathedral are seen in a room at Paris city hall after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic cathedral in Paris. Image Credit: REUTERS

The rector of Notre-Dame, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, also attempted to strike a hopeful note.

“I hope I will see that cathedral again in my lifetime and that I will celebrate a mass there. I’m 67 now and if all goes well, even if it takes 10 years, I will be 77 and still able to do it,” he told France Inter radio.

Much was able to be saved, according to reports. Most of the emblematic rose windows of medieval stained glass were also spared, including the huge round window dominating the church’s intricately carved western facade.

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