For the first time since 1803, Notre Dame Cathedral in the French Capital, Paris did not celebrate Christmas mass this year, to the great disappointment of tourists who travelled from Africa and the rest of the world to mark the birth of Christ, as Christians believe.
The symbolic cathedral has kept its doors closed since fire ravaged part of its roof on April 15. Catholic faithful and tourists were, thus, forced to attend Christmas mass at the Saint Germain l’Auxerrois church.
According to the rector of the cathedral, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, the structure is too fragile to let visitors in. He believes there is still a risk of poisoning because of the tons of lead dust released by the flames.
Every year, I try to come to Paris for Christmas, and as a Catholic, it is extremely important for me. Last year, I came to spend Mass on December 24 ... at Notre-Dame. This year, there is a change. It really breaks my heart.
“Currently, it’s not out of danger, it’ll be out of danger when we take out the remaining roofing. There is always a risk … we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also a 50% chance that scaffolding will fall on the three vaults so that you can see that the building is still very fragile.”
The cathedral is currently supported by a crane until the start of construction in February 2020.
But the work on this enormous building will take a long time because of its complexity, which means that this site, popular with tourists, will remain inaccessible for the next five years.
Once renovated, Notre Dame Cathedral, also one of the largest religious buildings in the West, is estimated to attract more tourists from around the world.
Apart from the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral is one of the largest monuments that represent France. It features prominently in the list of places that every tourist will want to see some day.
Notre Dame Cathedral welcomes a total of about 13 million visitors a year. Far ahead of the Louvre museum, which welcomed 10.2 million visitors last year.