Saturday Dec 21, 2019
PARIS: 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.