Stones fell from Notre Dame’s ceiling after July heat wave

PARIS (AP) — Several stones fell from the vaulted ceiling of fire-ravaged Notre Dame after last month’s European heat wave, a French official said on Wednesday, urging renewed stabilisation efforts to prevent further damage to the iconic Paris cathedral.

The Culture Ministry official said the stones crumbled after temperatures reached a record 42.6 Celsius in Paris in late July. The official said heat quickly dried out the mortar that was holding the ceiling stones in place.

The damage is “not serious” but the 12th Century cathedral remains at risk of further damage — and possible collapse, the official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorised to be publicly named according to ministry policy.

The vaulted ceiling is particularly fragile, after the April fire destroyed the massive lead-and-wood roof that kept the cathedral’s overall structure stable.

The ceiling vaults are also among the many features that make Notre Dame a treasure of world heritage and testament to medieval ingenuity.

The chief architect of France’s historic monuments warned last month about the danger from exceptional heat to the water-logged masonry. After three months of painstaking work to clear out hazardous debris and shore up the building, regional French authorities suspended all activity inside the cathedral last month over concerns about lead contamination.

Workers install high fences on a bridge around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. PHOTO: AP