The French equivalent of the Royal Naval Association has thanked their British counterparts for a message of support over the fire that badly damaged Notre-Dame in Paris.
RNA National President S/M John McAnally offered his “deepest sympathies” to Jean-Marc Schindler, the President of FAMMAC – the Fédération des Associations de Marins et de Marins Anciens Combattants – when he heard the “distressing news” about the fire in one of the best-known places of worship in the world.
The response, translated from the French, said: “Dear John, This dramatic event has taken us all by surprise and affected us deeply.
“Fortunately no one lost their lives and everything did not fall thanks to the wonderful work of our firefighters.
“There is no doubt that we will do what it takes to rebuild.
“Your testimony of sympathy and support is therefore of great help to us and will be communicated to all our members.
“Thank you, Jean-Marc.”
Construction of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of the French capital, began in the spring of 1163 on the site of earlier churches.
Additions and modifications were carried out over the centuries, and the fortunes of the church waxed and waned – it was harshly treated by the Revolutionaries, who removed or destroyed many of its most treasured artefacts.
By 1831 it was in a poor state of repair, but the publication of the novel Notre-Dame de Paris that year – known in its English version as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame ¬– brought the cathedral back to public prominence and in 1844 King Louis Philippe ordered its restoration.
And it was during a modern phase of restoration work that, on 15 April, fire broke out in the oak-frame roof, bringing the burning timber and molten lead down and the wooden spire with it – fortunately, the vaulted stone ceiling beneath prevented most of the burning material from falling into the cathedral itself.
Up to 500 firefighters fought the blaze for around 17 hours, and although the upper walls and roof were extensively damaged, priceless treasures had been removed from the church before restoration began, and the famous stone towers on the western façade, along with the three great medieval rose windows, survived without too much damage.
French president Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild the cathedral, and set a target of five years; donations to pay for the work have already topped 1 billion Euros.
Sailors of the French Navy recently paid their own tribute to the cathedral by forming up to represent its outline on the deck of aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is on exercise in the Indian Ocean.
Complete with stained-glass rose window, the shape of Notre-Dame was accompanied by the name Paris in the colours of the French tricolore – blue, white and red.
The image of the flight deck of FS Charles de Gaullecomes from the Marine Nationale Twitter feed