List of fires at major places of worship
This is a list of large ecclesiastical buildings that have suffered significant fires. Some medieval-era church structures have been subject to repeated fires, causing significant destruction and requiring varying levels of reconstruction. While most of the primary structural elements of these churches are fire-resistant stone, the roof structures are usually of wood construction, at least as originally built.
- Cathedral of Our Lady (Antwerp) – A fire on 5–6 October 1533 damaged the church.
- Saint Lambert's Cathedral, Liège – was destroyed by fire on 28/29 April 1185. It was rebuilt and again destroyed by revolutionaries beginning in 1795
- St. Salvator's Cathedral, Bruges – The church's predecessor was destroyed by fire in 1116. A fire destroyed the roof of the present building in 1839.
- Amiens Cathedral – A 1258 fire damaged the cathedral while it was under construction. The previous Romanesque cathedral burned in 1218.
- Angers Cathedral – The predecessor to the current church burned in 1032, immediately after it was completed.
- Angoulême Cathedral – Previous cathedrals on the site were burned in the 6th and 8th centuries.
- Auxerre Cathedral – The predecessor to the present cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1023.
- Bayeux Cathedral – After fires in 1077 and 1105, the 11th century Bayeux Cathedral was rebuilt into the present church, starting in the early 12th century. An 1160 fire caused extensive damage.
- Bayonne Cathedral – An earlier cathedral on the site was destroyed by fires in 1258 and 1310.
- Beauvais Cathedral – Three fires led to the start of a replacement for the former basilica at the site. The Basse Oeuvre is the remnant of the original church, having survived fires in the 11th and 12th centuries. The ambitious project suffered from structural instability, leading to repeated collapses, in 1284 and 1573.
- Belfort Cathedral – A timber church on the site was destroyed by fire in 1212.
- Chartres Cathedral – The present building is the latest of at least five structures destroyed by fire and war, with documented events in 858, 962 and 1020. After the 1020 fire the basis of the present cathedral was begun. In 1134 the town suffered a fire, which may have damaged the cathedral. A fire destroyed the east tower in 1194, leading to the reconstruction of the nave and choir. A lightning strike in 1506 destroyed the northeast tower, leading to its replacement in flamboyant Gothic style. A further fire in 1836 destroyed the lead-covered roof. Its replacement was undertaken in iron.
- Cambrai Cathedral – The cathedral was damaged in a fire in 1859 and restored by Viollet-le-Duc.
- Coutances Cathedral – The cathedral's predecessor was damaged by fire before the 13th century.
- Dijon Cathedral – was damaged by a fire in 1137 that destroyed much of Dijon.
- Evreux Cathedral – An early church was destroyed by fire in war in 1119. A replacement burned in 1198 in continuing hostilities between France and England.
- Langres Cathedral – The roof of the nave was destroyed by fire in 1314. A lightning-caused fire caused damage in 1562.
- Le Mans Cathedral – A church dating to 1160 on the site burned, together with much of Le Mans, on 3 September 1134, with a second fire in 1137. The chevet survived, and a new nave was constructed. The chevet was eventually rebuilt between 1217 and 1254.
- Metz Cathedral – Fireworks caused a fire in 1877.
- Nantes Cathedral – A fire on 28 January 1972 extensively damaged the roof, requiring a full restoration of the cathedral's interior. Another fire occurred on 18 July, 2020. This fire centred around the organ level right behind the main circular window.
- Nantes Basilica of St. Donatian and St. Rogatian – Roofers working on refurbishment accidentally started a fire on 15 June, 2015, which severely damaged the back and roof.
- Noyon Cathedral was built following a fire in 1131.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris – On 15 April 2019 the cathedral's roof caught fire, leading to the destruction of the 12th-century roof structure and the 19th-century spire.
- Poitiers Cathedral – The organ was destroyed in a fire on 25 December 1681.
- Quimper Cathedral – One tower burned in 1620.
- Reims Cathedral – An earlier Our Lady of Reims was destroyed by fire on 6 May 1210. Work on the present building began a year later.A fire in 1481 destroyed the attic framing, central tower and aisle gallery roofs. During World War I, German shelling set fire to scaffolding at the north tower, destroying the roof and the bishop's palace. In both cases, the lead roofing material melted. After the war, the cathedral roof was reconstructed using concrete framing.
- Rouen Cathedral – Its immediate predecessor was struck by lightning in 1110. An early version of the present church burned on Easter in 1200. It was struck by lightning in 1284. The main spire blew down in 1353. More lightning strikes took place in 1625 and 1642. A fire in 1727 damaged the choir roof. A replacement spire was destroyed by lightning in 1822, and was replaced with a neo-Gothic spire. Two aerial bombings in 1944 damaged the church, the second destroyed the roof, the north tower and much of Rouen by fire.
- Senlis Cathedral – In 1504 a fire caused by lightning destroyed the roof and vaulting.
- Strasbourg Cathedral – A Carolingian basilica at the site caught fire in 873, 1002 and 1007. Its replacement burned in 1015.
- Berlin Cathedral – An incendiary bomb set fire to the dome on 24 May 1944.
- Capernaum Church, Berlin – The church was bombed and burned out in May 1944, and the tower burned in February 1945.
- Cologne Cathedral – The second cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1248 as it was being demolished to make way for a new cathedral. The cathedral was damaged by 14 bomb strikes during World War II.
- Dresden Frauenkirche – The Frauenkirche was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden, catching fire on 13 February 1945 and collapsing on 15 February.
- Hildesheim Cathedral – In 1046, the cathedral catching fire and the nave of the building was destroyed to the ground. On 22 March 1945, a bombing raid during World War II set fire to the building and destroyed the cathedral.
- Lübeck Cathedral – On the night of Palm Sunday (28–29 March) 1942 a Royal Air Force bombing raid destroyed the eastern vaults. A fire started in the adjoining museum and spread to the attic, and on Palm Sunday the towers collapsed. An Arp Schnitger organ was lost in the flames
- Magdeburg Cathedral – On 16 January 1945, during World War II, a bombing raid set fire to the church. It was successfully contained, but caused significant damage.
- Mainz Cathedral – On 29 August 1009, on the Day of the consecration of the cathedral, a fire burned out the building.
- New Synagogue (Berlin) – An attempt was made on Kristallnacht to burn it down. It was finally destroyed during aerial bombing in late 1944 into early 1945.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre – 1808
- St. Martin's Cathedral, Utrecht – The site saw several buildings that were destroyed by fire or military attack from the 9th century onwards. A 1023 structure, known as Adalbod's Dom, was partly destroyed in a city-wide fire in 1253. The current church was started in 1254. The unfinished nave collapsed in 1674 when it was struck by a tornado, and was never rebuilt. However, a 2004 replica, built in scaffolding, was destroyed that year in a storm.
- Grue Church fire – 1822
- Canterbury Cathedral – The cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1067. Another fire in 1174 damaged the choir, leading to the rebuilding of the east end of the cathedral. An earthquake damaged the cathedral in 1382. An 1872 fire destroyed the roof of the Trinity Chapel. Fires sustained during World War II bombings were quickly extinguished.
- Chichester Cathedral – An 1187 fire destroyed the cathedral and town.
- Coventry Cathedral – The Gothic St Michael's Church was destroyed in the Coventry Blitz on 14 November 1940. A new church was built next to the ruins, which have been stabilized and preserved.
- Hereford Cathedral – Welsh forces burned the predecessor of the present cathedral in 1056.
- St Paul's Cathedral, London – The predecessor to the present St Paul's Cathedral was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Built starting in 1087 after a city fire the same year, it was damaged while under construction by another London fire in 1135. A 1561 fire in the church's 460-foot (140 m) spire was ignited by a lightning strike, destroying the spire and much of the roof, melting the lead The final 1666 fire was abetted by scaffolding around the building, whose heat calcined the stone. Demolition of the ruins was complicated by solidified lead that bound the ruins together.
- List of churches destroyed in the Great Fire of London and not rebuilt – Many London churches were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
- Newcastle Cathedral – A Norman predecessor burned in 1216.
- Norwich Cathedral – In 1171 a fire damaged the nave. A lightning strike in 1463 ignited the spire and destroyed the nave roof. The heat of the fire changed the limestone of the nave from cream colored to pink in places. In 1509 the transept roofs burned.
- Peterborough Cathedral – A 22 November 2001, arson caused substantial damage to the cathedral where the wooden ceiling came within moments of catching fire. Fortunately the fire was spotted by one of the vergers allowing a swift response by emergency services. The timing was particularly unfortunate, for a complete restoration of the painted wooden ceiling was nearing completion.
- Sheffield Cathedral – The parish church predecessor was burned in 1266.
- Southwark Cathedral – The cathedral's predecessor was destroyed in 1212 by the Great Fire of Southwark.
- Southwell Cathedral – Lightning striking the southwest tower burned the tower roof, nave and crossing on 5 November 1711.
- York Minster – An earlier church was destroyed by fire in 741. Its successor was damaged in 1069 during the harrying of the North, and finally destroyed by the Danes in 1070. A new Norman style structure was built from 1080 and was damaged by fire in 1137. It was replaced in stages by the present structure. An 1840 fire destroyed the roof over the nave, southwest tower and south aisle. On 9 July 1984 a major fire destroyed the roof and vaulted ceiling of the 13th-century south transept.
- Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption (San Francisco, California) – Destroyed by arson on 7 December 1962.
- Precious Blood Church fire – Destroyed 27 May 1875 when a breeze from an open window blew lacing draped over a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary into a lit candle.
- "St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta". Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings. Australian Institute of Architects. 2003. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- Esterházy, Christa (1966). Cities of the World - Vienna. J. M. Dent and Sons. p. 21.
- Lambert, David (2003). "Chapter two: Cities on Fire - Blazing buildings". Repairing the Damage. Fires & Floods. Bilbao: GRAFO, S.A. p. 12. ISBN 0-237-51798-1. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
Perhaps the deadliest of all church fire disasters occurred in 1863, in a Jesuit church in Santiago, Chile. Some records say that 2500 people perished
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- "The Basilica", Saint Paul Outside the Wall
- RIA Novosti - Russia - Restorers face long effort at Petersburg cathedral after fire
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- "The fir in the Canterbury Cathedral 1872". Illustrated London News. 14 September 1872.
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