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France announces contest to redesign Notre Dame spire

France will launch an international architectural competition to redesign the roofline of Notre Dame Cathedral after a huge fire gutted the oak-beamed structure and sent its 300ft spire crashing into the nave, the prime minister has said.

Édouard Philippe said the competition would give the 850-year-old building “a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time”. He said an estimation of the cost of rebuilding the cathedral had yet to be made. French billionaires, multinationals and private citizens have so far raised €880m (£762m) for the restoration.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, promised the nation on Tuesday night that Notre Dame would be rebuilt – and be “more beautiful than before” – within five years, a timetable many experts consider impossible.

Notre Dame’s rector said he expected the building to remain closed to the public for five to six years. “

On Wednesday evening cathedral bells rang out across France at the exact time the devastating blaze struck on Monday, after the Conference of French Bishops said they would ring nationwide in “solidarity with the diocese of Paris”.

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