12:11 GMT29 October 2020
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    One of the world’s most famous churches and Paris’ most recognisable landmark was engulfed by a massive fire back in April. Although France’s three wealthiest families, Arnault, Pinault and Bettencourt, as well as French oil and gas giant Total have pledged to fund the reconstruction, its fate remains uncertain.

    Notre Dame’s rector, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, has told the Associated Press agency that the cathedral, seriously damaged by a blaze earlier this year, may not be salvageable.

    “Today we can say that there is maybe a 50 percent chance that it will be saved. There is also 50 percent chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he revealed to the news agency at a Christmas Eve midnight Mass.

    The festive service was not held in Paris' landmark cathedral for the first time since the French Revolution, as due to its fragile state a nearby church hosted it instead. According to the cleric, Notre Dame could be opened for visitors in several years as the rebuilding itself is expected to take about three years, while the full restoration is expected to take even longer.

    Moreover, renovations are not expected to start earlier than 2021 due to preliminary works.

    “We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral. Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced,” Chauvet explained.

    Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, Notre Dame has been the site of royal marriages, coronations and farewell ceremonies for prominent French officials over many centuries, and is a prime example of French gothic architecture. On 15 April fire caused the collapse of its spire and the partial destruction of its roof structure. The blaze is believed to have started accidentally during renovation work underway inside the cathedral.

    Following the fire, France’s three wealthiest families, Arnault, Pinault and Bettencourt, who own conglomerate companies LVMH Group, Kering and L'Oreal respectively, pledged a combined $565 million as part of a fundraising effort to rebuild Notre Dame. In addition, French oil and gas company Total has promised $113 million, while consulting firm Capgemini has furnished over $1.1 million.


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