Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral Celebrates First Mass Since Devastating Fire A group of around 30 people wearing hardhats gathered for Mass in the cathedral on Saturday, exactly two months after a severe fire. The service was not open to the public.

Notre Dame Celebrates 1st Mass Since Fire Devastated The Historic Paris Cathedral

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/733225445/733317747" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Over the weekend, Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral celebrated its first Mass two months to the day after a fire destroyed the roof and toppled the spire. The Mass marks one of the first steps in a years-long path to rebuilding. Jake Cigainero reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CLERGY: (Singing in French).

JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: Priests in white robes and matching hard hats entered a side chapel of Notre Dame in a solemn procession. The Mass was limited to about 30 people for security reasons. Most of those in attendance were clergy members and some of the reconstruction team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PRIEST: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED CLERGY: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PRIEST: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED CLERGY: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in French).

CIGAINERO: The service was broadcast by French Catholic TV network KTO. Sweeping views of the burned-out roof and a pile of charred wood and rubble were an eerie contrast to serene hymns. In his homily, Archbishop Michel Aupetit described the 850-year-old gothic cathedral as the fruit of human genius, a masterpiece of man appreciated by everyone, not just Christians.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHEL AUPETIT: (Through interpreter) This cathedral is a religious place. No one who comes here is a tourist. Many come maybe out of curiosity without knowing why, but they are not the same when they leave.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS CHIMING)

CIGAINERO: Speaking at the diocese after the service, Aupetit said it was bizarre celebrating Mass in a hard hat, but that it was a moment of hope for the church and the 150 engineers, researchers, architects and journeymen currently working at the cathedral.

AUPETIT: (Through interpreter) The head architect told me the teams working at Notre Dame were very enthusiastic. They no doubt found the same spirit that presided over the construction of this cathedral, a spirit of communion.

CIGAINERO: The plaza in front of Notre Dame remains closed to the public. But crowds still gather at the barriers to glimpse the damage and to take selfies. Jack Matthews said he was happy to see the Mass bring life back to the battered cathedral, even if only a small group was allowed inside. He was emotional seeing Notre Dame for the first time since the fire.

JACQUES MARILLEAU: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "It took me two months before I could come here," he says. "I have a lot of precious memories of family and music from this cathedral." The French culture minister Franck Riester told French media the structure is still in a fragile state. He said the partially damaged ceiling vaults are not secure and still at risk of collapsing. Before securing the vaults, workers have to finish clearing the debris from the cathedral floor. That's a slow-going process, according to Thierry Zimmer, the deputy director of a research lab analyzing the rubble. Zimmer says the analyses will help them choose new material for reconstruction as well as offer clues about the origins of the fire.

THIERRY ZIMMER: We are not sure that we have completely saved the cathedral. We will be able to know this maybe in two months.

CIGAINERO: Construction isn't expected to begin until next year. For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero in Paris.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.