No Christmas Mass at Notre-Dame for first time in two centuries

by Jean-Louis DE LA VAISSIERE
President Emmanuel Macron has set a timetable of five years to completely repair Notre-Dame

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.

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President Emmanuel Macron has set a timetable of five years to completely repair Notre-Dame