French officials have launched an arson inquiry after a fire seriously damaged the Gothic cathedral in French city of Nantes, shattering shattering ancient stained glass windows and destroying a priceless organ.
Residents and tourists on Saturday watched aghast as smoke poured from the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in the historical centre of this city on the Loire River in western France.
A city official said the fire erupted Saturday morning inside the cathedral, with reports saying the inferno broke out in three separate locations.
No injuries were reported but the cathedral’s 400-year-old organ, where one of the spot fires ignited, was completely destroyed.
Officials brushed aside comparisons with Notre Dame cathedral in Paris whose lead roof and spire burned down in April 2019, with fire commanders saying the cathedral’s roof remained sound and was in no danger of collapse.
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“After Notre-Dame, the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, in the heart of Nantes, is in flames. Support for our firefighters who take all risks to save this Gothic jewel of the city,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.
Saturday’s fire broke the main stained glass windows between the two towers of the 15th century cathedral, which also suffered a serious fire in 1972.
“It is a part of our history, a part of our heritage,” Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland told reporters. “We all have these images in mind, this story in our hearts, but at this stage the situation does not seem to be comparable to that of 1972.”
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin will be among officials who will go to Nantes Saturday afternoon in reaction to the blaze.