Crowds gathered in London Sunday night to watch flames devour a replica of the city’s 17th-century skyline, an event marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.
The 120 meter (393 feet) long sculpture, designed by American sculptor David Best, was set ablaze in the middle of the river Thames.
It was a dramatic retelling of the 1666 disaster. The fire, which started in a baker’s shop, raged for four days, destroying most of the timber-built city. More than 13,000 buildings were destroyed, including the original St. Paul’s Cathedral. London’s city was eventually almost completely rebuilt, this time using stone.
It’s unknown how many people died in the Great Fire. While the official death toll is six, it’s believed many more died through indirect causes.
“It was an extraordinary event for London. It was a fire that destroyed the majority of the city … 80,000 people were made homeless and ended up living in refugee camps on the fringes of London for many years afterwards,” Kate Harvey, a producer from the event organizer, Artichoke, told CNN.
The replica project involved young local volunteers who were not employed or studying, in the hope that it would later provide employment opportunities.
“The big hook for me was not necessarily the history of the London fire, as much as it was the involvement of the kids from the community,” Best said.
The burning of the large replica was part of a larger festival, London’s Burning, held over the weekend to commemorate the anniversary.