OAKLAND, Calif. - A popular video game that hit the market five years ago may be a vital tool to helping rebuild Paris’ Notre-Dame, the 850-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral that was devastated by a catastrophic fire Monday night.
The video game is called Assassin’s Creed Unity and it was created by Paris-based Ubisoft. The game is set in Paris during the French Revolution and features a realistic 3D model of the historic cathedral.
A company artist spent two years painstakingly poring over blueprints of the house of worship to create the most accurate depiction of the cathedral as possible for the game. Books, photographs, internet research and interviews with historians were also helpful in the process, according to published reports.
“(Assassin’s Creed Unity) 3D scanned #NotreDame in so much detail that this could help rebuilding the cathedral,’’ tweeted Ştefan Teişanu, director of the Cluj Cultural Centre, non-governmental organization that supports culture and urban development.
With such close ties to the architectural gem, Ubisoft announced in a blog post Wednesday that it is donating $565,000 to help with the restoration and reconstruction of the cathedral.
"When we created Assassin's Creed Unity, we developed an even closer connection with this incredible city and its' landmarks – one of the most notable elements of the game was the extraordinary recreation of Notre-Dame," the post said.
In addition, Ubisoft said it is also offering people the chance to experience “the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how.”
For one week, the company will be giving Assassin's Creed Unity away free on PC, for anyone who wants it. Gamers can download it now for Uplay PC here: http://assassinscreed.com/unity-notredame/
“Video games can enable us to explore places in ways we never could have otherwise imagined,’’ the company said in a statement. "We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture.”
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild-- in five years--the famous cathedral that he called "a part of us," tweeting in French: "We will rebuild it. All together.”
Macron also appealed for financial help to do so.
Pledges for the restoration have come from worshippers and wealthy magnates, including those who own L'Oreal, Chanel and Dior. Presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern told broadcaster France-Info that $995 million has been raised since the fire.
The fire destroyed most of the lead roof of the Paris landmark and caused its' spire to collapse. The support walls are also threatened because of the heavy stone statues perched on top of them. Some of the cathedral’s treasures, including the famous rose windows, were saved and Notre-Dame’s famous bell tower survived the fire.
Although the fire broke out while Mass was underway, no one was killed because firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated those inside.
The cathedral is still being monitored closely by firefighters and experts to determine how much damage the structure suffered and what needs to be dismantled to avoid collapse.
More than 30 people have already been questioned in the investigation, including workers at the five construction companies who were involved in renovating the church spire and roof. Police also took images of the destruction using drones, in case it is altered by wind or rain.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but officials have said the fire was likely accidental.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.