Photo Credit: Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/Epa/REX/Shutterstock (8452196a)
Photo Credit: Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/Epa/REX/Shutterstock (8452196a)

United Nations: Two-thirds of the largely medieval roof of the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris have “gone” after the devastating fire, but UN cultural experts are standing by to offer help in rebuilding the iconic structure, UNESCO World Heritage Centre Director Mechtild Rossler said.

Rössler, who visited the site on Tuesday, told UN News that the cathedral is a universal symbol and the centre of France and its devastation has left people across nations shocked. She described seeing people praying outside the stricken symbol of the city and the nation, still trying to take in the scale of the disaster.

“I saw many, many people going from the Metro, to the site of Notre Dame, and I have to say many are still in a state of shock, because it’s not only the Christian community, it’s a building for all of us,” she said. “Really, it’s a universal symbol and it’s the centre of France …I think this is really shocking people profoundly and they lost something that is part of their identity.”

Rössler said a team of UNESCO experts is on hand to check the stability of the sto­n­e­work and potential damage to stained glass wind­o­ws, echoing a statement by the UNESCO Director-Gene­ral, Audrey Azoulay, in whi­ch she announced a “ra­p­id damage assessment” wou­ld be carried out as soon as po­ssible with the authorities. After visiting the site of Notre Dame on Monday night, Azoulay said “we are all heartbroken.”

The Cathedral is part of the World Heritage site officially known as “Paris, Banks of the Seine”, inscr­ibed on the World Heritage List, in 1991. “Notre Dame represents a historically, architecturally, and spiritually, outstanding universal heritage. It is also a monument of literary heritage, a place that is unique in our collective imagination,” said the UNESCO chief.

The cathedral, where construction began in the 1160s extending for over a century, is considered to be the finest example of the French Gothic style of architecture, with its groundbreaking use of rib vaults and buttresses, stained glass rosettes and sculpted ornaments.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s rector says he will close the burned-out Paris cathedral for up to six years. Bishop Patrick Chauvet acknowledged the famed monument would close down for “five to six years” as he spoke with business owners on Wednesday. He said “a segment of the cathedral has been very weakened”.

According to another media report, France no longer has trees big enough to replace the ancient wooden beams that burned in the massive Notre Dame fire, said a French cultural heritage expert.  Bertrand de Feydeau, Vice President of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio the wooden roof ravaged in the blaze was made with oak beams over 800 years ago from primal forests.

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