As crews check the structural stability of France’s Notre Dame cathedral and work to determine the full extent of damage from a massive fire at the centuries-old Paris landmark, President Emmanuel Macron is pushing ahead with an ambitious goal of rebuilding it within five years.
He gave the proposal to rebuild it “even more beautifully” in a nationwide address Tuesday night, and planned to spend Wednesday meeting with his Cabinet to discuss the reconstruction and the funding that will be necessary to complete it.
He already has a huge head start, with wealthy French citizens and businesses having pledged about $800 million.
WATCH: Experts Say Notre Dame Restoration Could Take Decades
Decades of work
But those in charge of carrying out restoration efforts at other historic cathedrals cautioned such work could take decades to complete.
The fire broke out Monday evening and it took 400 firefighters battling the flames for nine hours to bring it under control.
All cathedrals in France will ring their bells Wednesday evening to mark 48 hours after the fire began.
Notre Dame’s spire and roof collapsed, but the cathedral’s walls, iconic bell towers and round stained glass windows survived.
Officials said some of the art work was damaged, as was the main organ, but that many of the works and artifacts survived and would be taken to the Louvre Museum.
Also surviving are the Crown of Thorns, the site’s most sacred relic that was purported to have been worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, as well as a 13th century tunic said to have been worn by French king Louis IX.
Exact damage, cause not yet known
The exact extent of the damage will not be know until the remaining structure is deemed safe enough for teams to go inside and access all areas of the site.
The Paris public prosecutor is investigating the cause of the fire, which is suspected to be linked to renovation work on the cathedral’s roof, and said it would be a “long and complex case.”
Authorities are interviewing dozens of people from five companies that were involved in the renovation work. A spokesman for one of the companies, Julien le Bras, said “all the security measures were respected” by its 12 workers who he said are “participating in the investigation with no hesitation.”
The fire occurred during the holiest week of the year for Christians. It occurred less than a week before Easter and during Catholic Holy Week commemorations. An Easter Mass had been planned at the cathedral Sunday.
A Vatican statement expressing shock and sadness and called Notre Dame a “symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Tuesday on Twitter that Pope Francis is praying “for those who are trying to cope with this dramatic situation.”