Christmas mass at Notre Dame cancelled for first time in 200 years

Midnight service continued uninterrupted by two world wars 

Anthony Cuthbertson
Paris
Tuesday 24 December 2019 13:44
Comments
Campaigners want the rebuilding effort of Notre Dame to be more considerate of the environment
Campaigners want the rebuilding effort of Notre Dame to be more considerate of the environment

For the first time since the French Revolution there will be no Christmas mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, French officials confirmed.

The 855-year-old landmark is undergoing extensive restoration work after suffering severe damage in a devastating fire in April and is still too fragile to accommodate visitors.

“Since 1803, there have always been Christmas masses at Notre Dame,” said a Paris diocese spokesperson.

“It’s painful because we would have liked to celebrate Christmas at Notre Dame, but at the same time, there is also hope: we’re pressing ahead with the rebuilding.”

The midnight mass will instead take place at a nearby gothic church called Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, where Notre Dame’s iconic statue of the Virgin and Child has been moved to.

Rebuilding efforts are expected to take until at least 2024, according to French president Emmanuel Macron, though limited services have already taken place within the cathedral.

The world-renowned cathedral has seen plenty of upheaval since its first stone was laid in 1163.

It halted services after revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy and declared Notre Dame “a temple of reason”, but resumed religious activities under Napoleon in 1803, according to cathedral officials.

It kept going during two world wars, and Nazi occupation. Soldiers guarded its Christmas mass in 2015, weeks after France’s deadliest-ever terror attacks.

(AP

A fund set up to rebuild Notre Dame after the fire raised close to €1bn (£855m), largely thanks to donations from billionaires.

The biggest donation of €200m came from France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, who some claimed was using the opportunity to claim massive tax breaks.

Mr Arnault dismissed these accusations as “petty”, adding that he made the contribution “for the general interest”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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