Pierre Sennes, the Nantes public prosecutor, said that he suspected a criminal motive because the fire had three different starting points. “It’s not a coincidence, it’s even a signature,” he said, speaking to Ouest France.
The sight of another Medieval French cathedral in flames immediately recalled the spellbinding terror of the Notre Dame fire in April 2019, when its iconic spire snapped like a pencil and fell into the blaze below. Construction of the Nantes Cathedral began in the fifteenth century and was completed in the nineteenth century.
“After Notre Dame, Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, in the heart of Nantes, is in flames,” said President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, in a statement posted on Twitter. “Support for our firefighters taking all the risks to save this Gothic jewel of the city of the Dukes.”
French Prime Minister Jean Castex was due to arrive in Nantes Saturday afternoon, along with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot.
The immediate damages to Nantes Cathedral were not as severe as those to Notre Dame, which lost most of its roof and will require years to repair. The French government announced last week that Notre Dame — and especially its spire — would be constructed exactly as they were before.
But Nantes will still see significant damages.
“The damage is concentrated on the large organ, which seems to be completely destroyed,” Laurent Ferlay, the director general of the local fire department, told reporters. “The platform on which it’s located is very unstable and threatens to collapse.”
Saturday was not the first time Nantes Cathedral faced a blaze. In January 1972, much of the cathedral’s roof caught fire, which was repaired after 13 years of renovation.