What Will Happen to Notre Dame? Crowds Gather and Pray Along the Seine as Island Remains Closed

Madison Roberts

Following the devastating fire that tore through Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday, donations to rebuild the site poured in, raising questions about how long this enormous task will take and how it will impact tourists hoping to see the world-famous church and the city of Paris itself.

Notre Dame is touted as the most-visited monument in Europe, bringing in between 12 and 14 million visitors per year.

Tourists and locals alike have already been flocking to pay their respects at the monument. However, because of the fire, the inside of the French Gothic building will be closed to visitors — likely for upwards of five years.

RELATED: Could Notre Dame Devastation Have Been Minimized? Alarm Sounded 23 Minutes Before Fire Was Found

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On the night of the fire, the gathered crowd sang a haunting rendition of Ave Maria while watching the church burn.

Since then, Parisians and tourists have stood along the banks of the Seine to see what remains of the cathedral on the Ile de la Cité, an island in the river where the church is located.

A crowd gathered again on Tuesday night to hold a vigil on the Left Bank.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said he hopes the monument will be rebuilt within a five year period, though some experts suggest it will be much longer. A prominent conservation architect, Pierluigi Pericolo, suggested that just checking the stability of the remaining structure could take two to five years, and the actual restoration would be, “No less than 15 years,” the Chicago Tribune reports. He added, “It’s a colossal task.”

Paris is scheduled to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games and Macron hopes to have it completed before then.

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Notre Dame’s bishop Patrick Chauvet told local business owners that the landmark would be shut down for an estimated five to six years, USA Today reports. Chauvet also added that he is unsure about the future of the 67 employees of the church and what they will do in that time period.

The Notre Dame Cathedral has never been closed to the public for an extended period of time in recent history, according to Claire Moreau of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. She also stated that the most similar instance to this was in 2013, when they added bells in the towers, but that renovation only occurred at night and only the two towers were affected by periodic closures.

On Monday, the residents of Ile de la Cité, were evacuated and the island has been closed to the public, USA Today reports. There is no word yet on when the island will re-open.

Right now, the Visitors Bureau is recommending other famous religious sites and tourist attractions to those who were considering visiting Notre Dame, including the Basilique Saint-Denis, the Sacré-Coeur, the Church of Saint-Eustache or the Sainte-Chapelle and Panthéon.

Worshippers who were planning to celebrate Easter and the Holy Week with mass at Notre Dame have been told to attend nearby Saint-Eustache, USA Today reports.

While tourism to Notre Dame remains up in the air, the rebuilding of the cathedral has become an international affair. In two days, $1 billion has been raised for the rebuilding of the landmark, the Tribune reports.

Wealthy French citizens, including luxury brand group LVMH founder Bernard Arnault and Salma Hayek’s husband François-Henri Pinault both donated enormous sums immediately after the fire.

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe also announced another way for the international community to get involved in Notre Dame’s rebuilding: a contest for the redesign of the spire.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he hopes the contest will help developers decide if they should rebuilt the spire at all, create an exact replica of the 19th-century, 750-ton spire that collapsed on Monday, or “if, as is often the case for the evolution of patrimony and cathedrals, Notre Dame should be given a new spire adapted to the techniques and goals of our era.”

RELATED: Could Notre Dame Devastation Have Been Minimized? Alarm Sounded 23 Minutes Before Fire Was Found

An investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing, according to Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz. Initial reports indicate it started in the attic, which has a wooden framework and no sprinklers, and spread across the roof and up the 300-foot spire.