The Basilica of Saint-Donatien in Nantes erupted in flames just as the morning Mass ended. Worshippers were evacuated from the building, and two workmen were rescued from the roof unharmed.
Around 40 firefighters fought the blaze, but the flames spread quickly. Some of the roof’s wooden beams have given way, and the entire rooftop was severely damaged. With the fire now out, efforts are underway to save some of the basilica’s most important devotional objects and, if possible, to preserve the organ.
Nantes’ Mayor Johanna Rolland, in a statement on her Facebook page, called the basilica “an important symbol for Catholics.”
The basilica is named after the patrons of Nantes, Saints Donatien and Rogatien, who were martyred under the Emperor Maximin. Arrested for their Christian faith, the brothers were subjected to the torture rack, spent their last night praying together, then were beheaded the following morning.
Social media users posted videos and images of the burning building on Twitter, on Facebook and YouTube. Here is one dramatic video of the fire: