Authorities suspect arson after 15th Century French cathedral burns in Nantes

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NANTES, France – A 15th century French cathedral that took centuries to build was engulfed in flames this morning. The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes suffered heavy interior damage, though the blaze is now under control. The fire began at 7:35AM local time and required more than 100 firefighters to contain.

Authorities are suspecting arson as the investigation unfolds. Prosecutor Pierre Sennes told reporters that three fires had been started at the site and authorities are treating the incident as a criminal act. French officials launched an arson inquiry.

The organ – considered a crown jewel of the church – was completely destroyed. Stain glass windows were also blown out while the interior of the building suffered heavy damage. The roof was saved and suffered minimal damage, according to fire chief Laurent Ferlay. “We are not in a Notre-Dame de Paris scenario. The roof has not been touched,” said Ferlay.

The cathedral’s grand organ, which was completely destroyed in the blaze

Prime Minister Jean Castex has plans to visit the Nantes cathedral today, along with France’s culture and interior ministers. Demands for an investigation are mounting as the fire comes nearly a year after the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. “I want to know what happened even if it’s very early,” Castex said of the blaze. President Macron also commented on the incident. “Support to the firemen who are taking all the risks to save the Gothic jewel,” Macron said in a tweet.

As stated above, the fire comes shortly after the devastating blaze at Notre Dame. Officially ruled an accident, the Notre Dame fire resulted in a complete and total loss of the building’s roof, which was constructed with wood from an ancient forest. The structure was considered an engineering marvel. The iconic spire was also lost in the blaze.

As for the Nantes Cathedral, this is not the first time it has been damaged. It was partially destroyed by allied bombing in World War II and its medieval roof was destroyed by a fire in the 70’s. It was then replaced by a stone structure.

A report from the French Central Criminal Intelligence Service found that there were thousands of attacks on Catholic churches in the country from 2016-2018. In total, the numbers average out to three assaults or thefts on church ground per day, with a peak of 1,045 incidents in 2017. Last March,

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