The Burning Tower of Rouen Cathedral: What We Know
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The Burning Tower of Rouen Cathedral: What We Know

Authorities in the city of Rouen in northwestern France said on Thursday that a fire had broken out in the tarpaulin covering the spire of the city’s famous cathedral.

Footage from the scene showed a thick plume of smoke rising from the cathedral, which is about 70 miles from Paris. The Gothic cathedral was undergoing renovation work and its spire was covered in scaffolding.

“The cathedral has been evacuated. Emergency services are on site and a security perimeter has been established,” local officials wrote on X, formerly Twitter, urging the public to avoid the area.

Firefighters later told French news station BFMTV that the fire had been contained. They said they were working to secure the building and ensure there were no more “hot spots.”

The cause of the fire remains unclear. No casualties have been reported.

The Burning Tower of Rouen Cathedral: What We Know
Rouen Cathedral in Rouen, France, July 4, 2020. A fire broke out on Thursday in a tarpaulin covering the cathedral’s spire.

SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP/Getty Images

Context

The construction of the famous Gothic cathedral dates back to the 12th century. It inspired many paintings by French impressionist Claude Monet in the 19th century.

What do we know

According to BFMTV, emergency services received a report of the fire at around 12:00 local time from construction workers who were at the scene at the cathedral.

“It was the construction workers who informed us about the beginning of the disaster,” firefighters said.

Reuters reported that before the blaze was declared under control, fire chief Stephane Gouezec told local television stations that a large number of firefighters were being dispatched to bring the blaze under control.

“We arrived at the scene of the fire about half an hour ago and are currently making sure that the fire has been extinguished,” Gouezec said, noting that 70 firefighters and about 40 fire trucks were involved in extinguishing the blaze.

“We will need some more time, maybe an hour or more, to make sure there are no more outbreaks in the area.”

The mayor of Rouen, Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, shared a photo on X showing the cathedral shortly after the fire broke out.

“Fire in progress on the spire of @Rouen cathedral. Origin unknown at this stage. All public resources are being mobilised,” his post, translated from French, read.

Quoted by Caroline Dutarte, city representative, New York Times claiming that as a result of ongoing renovation work, only the tarpaulin covering the cathedral’s spire caught fire.

“It seems that the damage is not major and, most importantly, no one was injured,” she said, adding that the fire had been brought under control.

Views

Some social media users compared the fire to the 2019 fire that destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

“Another day, another burning church. This time in the Notre Dame Cathedral in the French city of Rouen. How long until there are no more churches in France?” said one X user, sharing a video of the fire.

“The spire of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen is on fire. Another Gothic monument in flames,” said another.

What’s next?

Local authorities said firefighters were still monitoring the cathedral.

Updated July 11, 2024, 9:40 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional information.