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$1 billion raised for Notre-Dame; ‘Int’l competition’ to redesign spire eyed

A fire fighter makes his way on a balcony of Notre Dame cathedral Wednesday, April 17, 2019 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up the pressure by setting a five-year deadline to restore the 12th-century landmark. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS, April 17, (Agencies): France will open the redesign of the Notre Dame de Paris’ iconic roofline to international architects after Monday night’s blaze gutted the oak-framed structure and sent its 300-foot spire crashing through its vaulted ceiling, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron pledged in a primetime televised address to the nation on Tuesday that Notre-Dame, one of France’s best-loved symbols, would be rebuilt within five years. Tycoons and international firms have promised financial and expert help. Notre-Dame de Paris was built over nearly 200 years starting in the middle of the 12th century, though it was only in the mid 1800s that architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc added the lead-covered spire during restoration work. “The international competition will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters. “Or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre Dame with a new spire.”

As he spoke, firefighters were using a crane to hoist supports to stabilise a fire-ravaged pinnacle that houses one of the cathedral’s historic rose stained-glass windows.

There was no immediate danger that the centuriesold structure would collapse but statues were also being removed to reduce the risk of movement now that it was no longer supported by the oak-framed roof, the fire service’s spokesman said. Meanwhile, nearly $1 billion has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, after the French president set a controversial five-year deadline to get the work done. Bells will toll at cathedrals around France on Wednesday evening in honor of the monument.

Remarkably, no one was killed in the fire, after firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated the site during a mass. Presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern told broadcaster France-Info on Wednesday that 880 million euros ($995 million) has been raised in just a day and a half since the fire. Contributions came from near and far, rich and poor – from Apple and magnates who own L’Oreal, Chanel and Dior, to Catholic parishioners and others from small towns and cities around France and the world.

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