Notre Dame fire: Tourist destination loses €180,000 Daily

Notre Dame Cathedral under reconstruction after the fire incident

There is no doubt, Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’ is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world with an estimated 13 million visitors every year, which means an average of 30,000 people every day, and a growing population of 50,000 tourists pass through the cathedral on peak days during the summer.

Hence, the fire incident that engulfed the 850-year-old landmark has brought a huge loss not just to the economy of the tourist attraction but also to the France tourism industry, as over €180,000 (about N73.2million) is estimated to have been lost daily the fire out break in the iconic cathedral.

The fire, which engulfed one of the most iconic Catholic cathedrals and tourist landmarks in the world and caused the famous spire and the oak roof to topple, shook the world, especially those who worked in the building every day.

Located on the Île de la Cité (Island of the City), Paris’ historic city centre in the 4th arrondissement, not far from the Cité Metro station, 500 metres from the Louvre Museum and Jardin des Tuileries, the cathedral is the most visited monument in the French capital, ahead of the Eiffel tower.

The monument provides an illustration of typical French gothic architecture. It offers modern, air-conditioned suites with a fully equipped kitchenette. Its innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style.

According to records, Pope Alexander III put down the first stone of the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1163, with King Louis VII. It took almost 100 years to complete the first part of the construction work, which included the church’s iconic flying buttresses and two towers.

A second period of construction began in 1250 in order to modify parts of the church’s façade — which had been built in a Roman style — so that they would be in better harmony with the Gothic style of the rest of the structure. Incredibly, this reconstruction lasted until the middle of the 14th century.

Built between the 12th and 14th century, the Cathedral suffered frequent pillaging and destruction during the French Revolution, before being restored in the 19th century under the guidance of the famous architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

A true masterpiece, the west façade boasts three majestic carved portals, including one depicting the Last Judgment, while the south side of the building reveals its magnificent portal dedicated to St Stephen, and the north side its splendid Cloister portal.

Immortalised by Victor Hugo in one of his most famous novels, the medieval edifice celebrated its 850th anniversary in 2013 with the installation of nine new bells, and is thus looking its best for the tourists who now come from all over the world.

Inside, the beauty of the stained glass windows is stunning, as are the choir enclosure adorned with bas-reliefs, and the precious treasury of Notre-Dame, which today contains the relics of the Passion of Christ that were once kept in the Holy Chapel.

Despite its status as a tourist attraction, the tourist destination was still a fully operational Catholic church. Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral, and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free.

As such, it’s financially maintained by the Archdiocese of Paris, which was tasked with raising funds for the restoration that was ongoing before the fire outbreak on Monday afternoon, April 15.

The priests for years believed the government should pay for repairs, since it owned the building. But under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep, with the Ministry of Culture giving it about €2 million ($2.28 million) a year for that purpose.

With room for up to 9,000 people, the cathedral has plenty of space to welcome the many visitors who come to see the building every day. In fact, during the busiest times, up to 50,000 people come to walk through the cathedral in a single day.

Though the cathedral has been free to enter, visitors were required to pay a small fee (€6, or just over $6) to enter the crypt and the tower (€8.50, or just over $9). Serving as the setting of the famous novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame has only increased the worldwide reputation of this already prestigious institution.

Following the quick spread of the fire across the building, those who knew the iconic cathedral say ‘today doesn’t feel real’, especially as tour guides who work inside the monument every day spoke of their heartbreak, while they watched the place go up in flames.

According to tour guides who had worked and those working in the cathedral, the inferno was a great shock and fear nothing will be left of their workplace, which holds so much beauty, history and culture.

Speaking on the incident, French President, Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral, even as he said, “our history, our literature, the epicenter of our life, the standard by which we measure our distances. It’s so many books, so many paintings. It’s the cathedral of every French person, even those who have never visited it.”

Some of the wealthiest people in France, including the Pinault family, who control the luxury conglomerate Kering that owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and Bernard Arnault, the CEO of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) Group, have pledged hundreds of millions to rebuild the cathedral.

Meanwhile, an architectural historian, Andrew Tallon, a professor at Vassar, before his death in 2018, left behind an arguably even greater donation — a blueprint that can be used to aid the reconstruction effort.

Tallon had in 2010, used a 3D scanner to document every piece of Notre Dame, creating what the Atlantic called an “unmatched record of the reality of one of the world’s most awe-inspiring buildings.”

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