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Ghent Cathedral to help in Notre-Dame reconstruction

The disastrous fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has focused minds on what would happen here if fire broke out in any of our cathedrals of basilicas, in Brussels, Ghent or Mechelen.  Ghent Cathedral is also collecting funds for Notre-Dame.

In Ghent the Saint Bavo Cathedral has escaped the threat of fire on at least three occasions.  Ludo Collin is Saint Bavo’s rector: “It’s not easy to protect a building like this from the threat of fire.  At Ghent Cathedral we’ve been taking measures for decades now.  The lofts and roofs have been compartmentalised.  Extra walls and fire doors have been installed to prevent the spread of fire over the entire roof. Pipes have also been fitted that could supply water, if need be.  Some of these measures are a bit dated today and we’re revisiting the dossier.”

The Cathedral hasn’t got fire detectors or sprinklers, but these will be installed soon.  Using water in buildings like this isn’t easy as the pressure the water creates could bring down the vaults.

Ghent Cathedral possesses an evacuation plan for people and for works of art.  The works of art are listed in order with the ones that must be saved first at the top. The world famous Ghent Altarpiece will be protected against theft and fire when it returns after its restoration.  For the Rubenses this is already the case. 

President Macron of France recently visited Ghent to see the restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece with his own eyes (photo).

Rector Ludo Collin: “We’ll be helping in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame.  We’ll be collecting for Notre-Dame instead of for our own cathedral.”

Alain Habils, a fire-fighter in Flemish Brabant, notes that local fire services with a building of that stature in their area stage regular evacuation exercises, but adds that that wouldn’t make putting out any fire any easier: “In Paris the renovation work will have hampered the operation” he says. "Fire-fighters will first have concentrated on rescuing works of art that unlike a building can't be restored."