Cathedral bells across France toll in solidarity with Notre Dame  04/17/2019 18:52:11  4

The bells tolled at 6:50 p.m. local time (12:50 p.m. ET), acknowledging what the French Bishops Conference described as "a shock that affects far beyond just the Catholics of our country."

The famed Chartres Cathedral, Marseille's Cathedral of Sainte Marie-Majeure, Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg and Paris' Sacr�-Coeur Basilica�joined a chorus of more than 100 French cathedrals participating in the act of solidarity.

On Tuesday, cathedrals and churches in countries including the UK, Canada and the United States also rang their bells in support, while countries including Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina lit up famous landmarks with the French tricolor.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the move to ring the bells of Westminster underlined "our solidarity with France and her people," adding that on Maundy Thursday -- a Christian holy day that falls on the Thursday before Easter -- bells would ring at cathedrals and churches across England in solidarity once more.

Wednesday's show of support comes as heartfelt tributes continue to pour in globally, demonstrating how deeply Notre Dame captures the hearts of people from around the world.

A firefighter pours water on Notre Dame cathedral in the aftermath of Monday's fire.

On Wednesday, in his first weekly address since the fire, Pope Francis revealed he was "very distressed" about the Notre Dame fire and thanked the people who risked their lives to save it.

"May the Virgin Mary bless them and support the work of reconstruction: may it be a collective effort, to the praise and glory of God," he said.

On Tuesday, the Vatican Culture Minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, offered the Vatican's expertise in rebuilding Notre Dame, saying: "We have the type of know-how that the whole word recognizes as being of high quality, so I think an eventual future offer by the Holy See will be significant."

Countries including the United Kingdom and Russia have also offered their best experts to help with the rebuilding efforts, as individual donations towards the rebuilding�continue to rise.

More than 800 million euros ($904 million) have been donated to the restoration efforts already, including some in the tens of millions of euros from some of France's wealthiest families.
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The global outcry over the devastating fire demonstrates Notre Dame's pull. To Parisians, and around 13 million visitors every year, it's more than just a cathedral, it's a symbol of the French capital and a vital part of European history. Its foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, and the cathedral was finally completed in the 13th century.

It withstood multiple restorations and extensions, including the addition of its central spire in the 19th century, and its popularity was buoyed by the success of Victor Hugo's novel, "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame." The building was undergoing renovation work at the time of the fire on Monday.

While the magnificent edifice, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, draws art and architecture buffs from around the world, for generations of Catholics it has also been a place of pilgrimage and prayer.

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The cathedral was home to a selection of sacred relics including a fragment of the Wood of the Cross -- believed by many to be a part of the "true cross" on which Jesus was crucified -- and what is supposedly�one of the nails that the Romans used to crucify him.

The Crown of Thorns and the Tunic of Saint Louis were among the venerated artifacts saved from the blaze on Monday.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, the Paris fire brigade's chaplain said that the Crown of Thorns was immediately handed to police after being removed from the cathedral, saying that responders were "acutely aware that we are in the process of trying to preserve some of the world's heritage."

"And if you didn't, then it would be lost. Lost to humanity."�

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