Chief minister shocked by Notre Dame fire
GUERNSEY's most senior politician has spoken of his shock after a devastating fire tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Chief minister Gavin St Pier said that the blaze would affect the many islanders who had visited the landmark building – whose roof and spire collapsed in the flames - in the heart of the French capital.
He also emphasised Guernsey’s shared history with France, which most recently saw the Mayor of Paris attend the reopening of French writer Victor Hugo’s home in St Peter Port after a major restoration project.
Jonathan Le Tocq, member of P&R with responsibility for external affairs, also spoke about the restoration of Hauteville House as an example of hope.
Their comments came as French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral.
The cause of the blaze was unclear, although officials were reported as saying it could be connected to renovation work at Notre Dame Cathedral. It took around nine hours before the fire was under control, although it could several days before it is completely put out.
Deputy St Pier said: ‘It is so sad to watch such an iconic, historic and familiar landmark go up in flames. Our shared history with France was on display only two weeks ago when the Mayor of Paris was in the island for the reopening of Hauteville House.
‘Many people in Guernsey will have visited Notre Dame making it all the more poignant.’
Deputy Le Tocq said: ‘The Notre Dame fire is a reminder that treasured things can be easily lost and quickly destroyed; for Paris, France and indeed the whole world.
‘Notre Dame is a symbol of history, culture, religion and so many stories have been written around it. Including probably the most famous - Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame in English versions) - by our adopted grand écrivain himself Victor Hugo.’
He added: ‘In his novel, written between 1829-31 when the cathedral was in a dire state of disrepair, Hugo sees Notre Dame as a work of art authored by humanity itself. He wrote the novel, fearing - and ominously predicting Notre Dame’s destruction, in order to awaken Parisians to the need to protect gothic art, which Hugo loved.
‘He rejoices in the fact that it took two centuries to build, many architects and many labourers. It is significant and a happy juxtaposition that we have just celebrated the reopening of arguably Hugo’s chef d’œuvre, in terms of an objet d’art at least, Hauteville House, thanks to the generosity of the Pinault family and the faithfulness of the City of Paris.
‘Now Paris will need to turn its attention and resources to rebuilding Notre Dame, but we can be grateful and certain, along with France as a whole that here in Guernsey stands renewed and revitalised a unique and magnificent historic work of art by the most ardent supporter of Notre Dame.
‘That gives us all confidence that out of the ashes, new hope will rise.’