Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries

Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries
Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Notre-Dame cathedral will fail to hold a Christmas mass for the first time since 1803, French officials confirmed on Saturday, as workers continue to repair and rebuild the Paris landmark eight months after a devastating fire.

The cathedral's press office said midnight mass would still be celebrated on Christmas Eve by rector Patrick Chauvet but it would be held at the nearby church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.

Notre-Dame, part of a Unesco world heritage site on the banks of the River Seine, was ravaged by the April 15 blaze - losing its gothic spire, roof and many precious artefacts.

The building had remained open for Christmas through two centuries of often tumultuous history - including the Nazi occupation in World War II - being forced to close only during the anti-Catholic revolutionary period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

President Emmanuel Macron has set a timetable of five years to completely repair the eight-centuries-old structure, which remains shrouded in scaffolding with a vast crane looming over it.

Paris prosecutors suspect criminal negligence and opened an investigation in June, suggesting a stray cigarette butt or an electrical fault could be the culprit.

The culture ministry said in October that nearly one billion euros ($1.1 billion) had been pledged or raised for the reconstruction.

"This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass (at Notre Dame)," Mr Chauvet told The Associated Press.

There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Mr Chauvet noted, "because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere," referring to the cathedral's clergy. During World War II, when Paris was under Nazi occupation, "there was no problem." He said that to his knowledge, it was only closed for Christmas in the period after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into "a temple of reason."

Christmas-in-exile at Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois this year will be a history-making moment.

"We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak... but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us," Mr Chauvet said.

Those indicators include a wooden liturgical platform that has been constructed in the Saint-Germain church to resemble Notre Dame's own.

The cathedral's iconic Gothic sculpture "The Virgin of Paris," from which some say Notre Dame owes its name, is also on display in the new annex.

Updated: December 22, 2019 03:57 PM

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