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Fifteen months ago, a devastating fire pulled down the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

This raised questions about the security risks for other historic churches across France.

Two days ago, a lawyer of the 39-year-old volunteer at Gothic cathedral in Western France Nantes town said the volunteer confessed to setting the building of Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on fire.

The fire severely damaged the cathedral’s 17th-century organ and blew out stained glass.

The 39 years old who set the fire is an asylum seeker from Rwanda. He has lived in France for several years.

The cathedral

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The report stated thus:

A church volunteer has admitted starting a fire that devastated the cathedral in the French city of Nantes last week, his lawyer has said.

The Rwandan refugee, who worked as a warden at the cathedral, was rearrested on Saturday night.

No motive for the fire, which destroyed the cathedral’s 17th Century organ as well as historic stained-glass windows, has been given.

His lawyer told reporters his client felt “relief” after confessing.

“It’s someone who is scared, who is somehow overwhelmed,” his lawyer, Quentin Chabert, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

However, the 39 years old volunteer, who has not been named, was initially detained for questioning after the fire. But was released without any charge.

The Rwandan had been in charge of locking up the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral the day before the fire on 18th July 2020.

Initial report from officials said that the fire was believed to have been arson and had started in three different places.

Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said on Saturday that the man had been charged with “destruction and damage by fire”.

He might face up to 10 years in prison and €150,000 ($175,000; £135,000) in fines, according to the AFP news agency.

Around 100 firefighters managed to stop the flames from destroying the main structure at the cathedral.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister, Jean Castex praised their “professionalism, courage and self-control”.

The fire came about 15 months after a blaze nearly destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Moreover, he was arrested earlier this month after laboratory analysis determined that arson was the likely cause of the blaze. The local prosecutor’s office said.

Nevertheless, firefighters were able to stop the Nantes fire within two hours and save the cathedral’s main structure.

But the famed organ which dated from 1621 and had survived the French Revolution and World War II bombardment, was destroyed.

Other items lost in the fire were priceless artefacts and paintings.

These paintings included a work by the 19th century artist Hippolyte Flandrin. Also stained glass windows that contained remnants of 16th-century glass were lost.

Meanwhile, work on the cathedral began in 1434 and continued over the following centuries until 1891.

Moreover, the cathedral had already been damaged by a more serious fire in 1972. That was when officials added concrete reinforcements while redoing the roof over the consecutive 13 years.

Security forces put off the Nantes cathedral fire within two hours.
Nantes cathedral set on fire by a Rwandan asylum seeker.
Notre dame cathedral destroyed by fire 15 months ago.

However, the French government said it will make sure that the cathedral is restored.

Philippe Charron, head of the regional DRAC state heritage agency said that few elements of the main organ are likely to be saved.

“It will take several weeks to secure the site and several months of inspections that will be carried out stone by stone,” he said.

Reconstruction will take several years

Source: Aljazeera.com.

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