“Computer glitch” may be behind Notre Dame fire, rector says

Paris churches ring bells in tribute to Notre Dame as France plans rebuilding

Notre Dame fire: What we know

  • A major fire erupted at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday.
  • The cathedral’s rector said Friday a “computer glitch” might have been behind the blaze.
  • A police official said Thursday investigators think a short-circuit most likely caused the fire.
  • About 40 people have been questioned by investigators.
  • So far, about a billion dollars have been pledged to help restore the landmark.

A “computer glitch” may have been behind the fast-spreading fire that ravaged Notre Dame, the cathedral’s rector said Friday. Speaking during a meeting of local business owners, rector Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate on the exact nature of the glitch, adding that “we may find out what happened in two or three months.”

On Thursday, Paris police investigators said they think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire. French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that a fire alarm went off at Notre Dame shortly after 6 p.m. Monday but a computer bug showed the fire’s location in the wrong place.

The paper reported the flames may have started at the bottom of the cathedral’s giant spire and may have been caused by an electrical problem in an elevator. Chauvet said there were fire alarms throughout the building, which he described as “well protected.”

The fire burned through the network of enormous centuries-old oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling, dangerously weakening the building. The surrounding neighborhood was blocked off as stones continued to tumble off the sides of the cathedral after the devastating blaze.

Crews stabilize Notre Dame; firefighters leaving

A fire brigade spokesman said Friday architects and construction workers have stabilized the damaged structure and firefighters would leave the site Friday night. “There is no more risk the edifice’s walls could fall down,” Lt. Col. Gabriel Plus told The Associated Press, adding that firefighters have been able to cool down the walls and debris from the roof inside the cathedral.

“It’s a miracle that the cathedral is still standing, and that all the relics were saved,” he said. Charlotte Hubert, president of a group of French architects who specialize in historic monuments, told BFM television that experts plan to spread a custom-made peaked tarpaulin across the cathedral’s roof, with enough space to also shield workers rebuilding the frame.

A crane works between the two towers at Notre Dame Cathedral days after a massive fire devastated large parts of the Gothic structure in Paris, France, April 18, 2019.
A crane works between the two towers at Notre Dame Cathedral days after a massive fire devastated large parts of the Gothic structure in Paris, France, April 18, 2019. Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Temporary wooden cathedral proposed

Chauvet said he wanted a temporary wooden structure to be built to serve as the cathedral as Notre Dame is being rebuilt, BBC News reports. “We mustn’t say, ‘The cathedral is closed for five years and that’s it,'” Chauvet told France’s CNews.

Chauvet called for an “ephemeral cathedral” in front of Notre Dame. The wooden structure, Chauvet said, should be “beautiful, symbolic and attractive.”

Dozens investigating cause of massive Notre Dame fire

About 50 investigators are involved with the probe. Some 40 people, including those involved in the cathedral’s restoration work before the fire, had been questioned by Thursday, according the Paris prosecutor’s office.

Notre Dame Cathedral fire may have been caused by electrical problem: report

Officials had said a fire alarm was triggered at 6:20 p.m., but no fire was discovered. Then, at 6:43 p.m., another alarm sounded.

At that point, fire spread quickly from the roof near the rear of Notre Dame. In less than an hour, it engulfed the spire, which — just 13 minutes later — collapsed as onlookers watched in horror.

Man arrested at U.S. cathedral with gas cans, lighters

Man who carried gasoline and lighter fluid into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in custody

In the U.S., a New Jersey man was charged with attempted arson Thursday after trying to enter the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York carrying gas cans and lighters. Police said Marc Lamparello, 37, parked his minivan outside the historic cathedral just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, CBS News correspondent Mola Lenghi reports.

Lamparello then tried entering the building carrying four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and two butane lighters. He was quickly stopped by security inside and turned away — but not before police said he spilled gasoline on the floor.

Counterterrorism police outside followed him back to his car, where he told them he was just cutting through the cathedral and that his car was out of gas. Police found that wasn’t the case and took him into custody.

Chaplain says many people saved crown of thorns

The crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion is displayed during a ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris March 21, 2014.
The crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion is displayed during a ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris March 21, 2014. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Several hundred Paris firefighters, who are members of the French military, filed into the presidential Elysee Palace courtyard Thursday where President Emmanuel Macron expressed his gratitude for their work. Among the firefighters honored was fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who said he was falsely credited with helping salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion.

The chaplain said a team of rescuers broke the relic’s protective covering and an official who had the secret code to unlock the protection finished the job. Fournier told France Info on Thursday that his own team arrived on the heels of the salvaging and praised the action “to preserve this extraordinary relic, this patrimony of humanity.”

However, Fournier told Le Parisian that he was able to save the most precious thing for Catholics from the fire, the cathedral’s consecrated hosts. The paper said he climbed on altars to remove large paintings, but that he felt especially proud “to have removed Jesus” from the cathedral.

For Catholics, consecrated hosts are the body of Christ.

Photos show damage to Notre Dame

Notre Dame stands damaged but defiant after the fire that raged for at least 12 hours. Inside, where the spire collapsed, the altar was buried in debris, but its cross was almost shining, and pews were still in place, CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi reports.

The cross and sculpture of Pieta by Nicolas Coustou are seen surrounded by debris inside Notre Dame Cathedral in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the church during a visit by French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, not pictured, in Paris, Fra
The cross and sculpture of Pieta by Nicolas Coustou are seen surrounded by debris inside Notre Dame Cathedral in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the church during a visit by French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, not pictured, in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. Reuters

Paris’ City Hall released pictures of the inside of the 850-year-old church Wednesday, showing the soot-filled sanctuary covered in debris. The roof, with its 800-year-old wooden beams, is gone.

The top of Notre Dame Cathedral is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019.
The top of Notre Dame Cathedral is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019. Mairie de Paris

Light shined through gaping holes in the intricately carved vaulted ceiling. Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told the AP that the roof’s wooden beams cannot be remade because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019.
The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019. Mairie de Paris

Even though the flames swept over the cathedral so intensely, much of the interior was saved, CBS News correspondent Ian Lee reports. Notre Dame’s two medieval bell towers were still intact, and its stained-glass rose windows appeared mostly unscathed.

One of Notre Dame Cathedral's famous rose windows is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019.
One of Notre Dame Cathedral’s famous rose windows is seen after a massive fire April 15, 2019. Mairie de Paris

Officials said it will be at least another day before scaffolding from the earlier restoration work is stabilized so the rubble can start to be cleared away.

Hundreds of millions raised for restoration

Deep-pocketed wine lovers in London raised nearly a million dollars Wednesday morning for the rebuilding of Notre Dame. Sotheby’s auctioned off 25 five-bottle cases from one of the world’s most prestigious wine producers, Château Mouton Rothschild.

The sales were originally meant to raise money for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles, France’s opulent former royal residence. About a billion dollars have been promised to help restore Notre Dame.

Scammers targeting Notre Dame donors

Global scam artists are already preying on donors. Security experts and nonprofits alike are issuing warnings for crooks seeking to capitalize on the fire.

“These kinds of scams are proliferating globally,” Alan Brill, a cyber risk expert at Kroll, a global consulting firm, told CBS’ MoneyWatch. “And the thing that’s so depressing is the scammers are so good at taking advantage of tragedy that they have a playbook.”

The French Ministry of Culture has identified four reputable organizations that have launched fundraisers for the cathedral’s reconstruction, including la Fondation du Patrimoine, la Fondation de France, la Fondation Notre-Dame, and le Centre des monuments nationaux.

180,000 bees atop Notre Dame survive fire

Tens of thousands of bees stayed put on Notre Dame’s roof as it burned on Monday. Their beekeeper was worried they wouldn’t make it, but on Thursday, he was relieved to find out the bees survived the blaze.

“An ounce of hope!” beekeeper Nicolas Geant wrote on Instagram, sharing a drone photo of the cathedral’s scorched roof. “Drone photos show that the 3 beehives are still in place and seem to be intact!”

American finds man and little girl in viral photo

A moment of bliss captured on camera about an hour before Notre Dame caught fire triggered an international search that ended Thursday. The photo by Brooke Windsor, an American tourist, showed an unidentified man twirling a little girl in front of the medieval landmark.

The photo went viral after Windsor shared it on Twitter. She also made a plea to find the two people, thought to be a father and daughter.

The tweet was shared hundreds of thousands of times, and Windsor announced on Twitter Thursday that the search was over. She said the man wanted to remain anonymous and he told her he would find “a special place” for the picture.

Notre Dame Cathedral’s history

Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a worldwide Parisian icon and the location of some of the most important moments in the history of France.

Henry VI of England was crowned inside the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France inside the cathedral in 1804.

The cathedral receives nearly 13 million visitors a year and is home to exquisite religious artifacts, paintings, sculptures and other priceless works of art.

It had been undergoing renovations after cracks began to appear in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable. CBS News’ Roxana Saberi reported in March 2018 that years of rain, snow and pollution had eroded the flying buttresses that prop the cathedral up.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is falling apart

James Shepherd, director of preservation and facilities at the Washington National Cathedral, spoke with CBSN on Monday about Notre Dame’s epic history.

“That’s 800 years of history, of people pilgrimaging there and worshiping there, and the accumulation of culture,” Shepherd said by phone. “All of that will have to be taken into consideration as they try to repair this church and save it after this devastating fire.”

Shepherd spoke of Notre Dame’s “stunning and exclusive stained-glass windows,” which the cathedral’s heritage director said Tuesday don’t appear to have been destroyed in the fire. Shepherd called them “absolutely priceless and some of the best examples of European stained-glass windows.”

Photos of the Notre Dame fire

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