Like Paris, Savannah’s landmark cathedral suffered devastating fire

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Those familiar with the history of Savannah’s historic cathedral know it has something else in common with Notre Dame, which suffered a devastating fire Monday.

More than 100 years ago, a fire destroyed much of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The spires of the church are more than just iconic symbols of the Hostess City’s skyline — they are silent witnesses that devastated the house of worship.

It’s believed the fire started in a boiler room on Sunday, Feb. 6, 1898.

“Thank goodness there were no people in the church,” said Marsha McBride, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Docent. “The pillars collapsed, and everything was destroyed in the church except the main altar, under which the fire had started, and one window in the front chapel.”

The history of Savannah’s cathedral fire rose top-of-mind for some local historians when news of Notre Dame’s fire spread.

“As I watched the coverage yesterday from Paris, I thought a lot about the fire of 1898 here in Savannah and just that resilience of human spirit that says this is not the end,” said Patricia Meagher of the Georgia Historical Society. “We are not finished. We will rebuild this again. This place will rise from the ashes.”

The cathedral draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, a testament to those who first built it, then rebuilt it and opened it to worshippers just two years after the fire of 1898.
“I think that just speaks so much to the people of Savannah and their desire to see that cathedral open its doors once more to worshippers,” Meagher said.

The reality that Savannah’s cathedral was rebuilt after being destroyed by a fire fuels local hope that Notre Dame recover.

“It is an example that things rise from the ashes and that’s also a message of Christianity, particularly this week, and I hope they do rebuild,” MacBride concluded.

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