All through town, crowds of residents and vacationers hugged each other as the hearth raged on Monday night, some singing hymns. Others packed the banks of the Seine throughout from the Gothic masterpiece, hoping in opposition to hope that some 400 firefighters may forestall additional injury. Others held their heads of their fingers, unable to look at.
“This cannot be occurring, it is breaking my coronary heart,” one girl muttered.
“Not Notre Dame. Not Notre Dame.”
To Parisians, and to some 13 million guests every year, Notre Dame is an emblem of the French capital. Its basis stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, and the cathedral was lastly accomplished within the 13th century.
It withstood a number of restorations and extensions, together with the addition of its central spire within the 19th century, partly buoyed by the success of Victor Hugo’s novel, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” The constructing was present process renovation work on the time of the hearth on Monday.
Whereas the magnificent edifice with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass attracts artwork and structure buffs from all over the world, for generations of Catholics it has additionally been a spot of pilgrimage and prayer.
The cathedral is house to a collection of sacred relics together with a fraction of the Wooden of the Cross — believed by many to be part of the “true cross” on which Jesus was crucified — and what’s supposedly one of many nails that the Romans used to crucify him.
Notre Dame will not be solely a repository of historic and non secular treasures, it additionally has a spot within the hearts of many.
As the hearth raged Monday night, eyewitness Anne Marie known as it a “monumental image.” Talking with tears in her eyes, she stated the hearth was a blow to each Parisian — and to town itself.
“Paris with out the cathedral will not be Paris anymore,” she stated.
French-American François-Xavier Lochet, 70, remembers climbing the towers of the north belfry as a 12-year-old. Now he attends Mass on his visits again to Paris. On Monday night, Lochet was contained in the cathedral when an alarm started blaring, signaling worshipers to evacuate.
Lochet, near tears, watched billows of smoke develop and develop. Notre Dame, he stated, is his “most favourite church, “constructed by numerous craftsmen who devoted their lives to it.”
It’s “an enormous piece of the historical past of Europe,” Lochet added.
The fireplace destroyed the spire and most of its medieval roof, generally known as “the forest” as a result of it required a forest to construct it, in accordance with Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, the rector of the cathedral.
One firefighter was critically injured, in accordance with Paris Fireplace Brigade Commander Normal Jean-Claude Gallet.
Nevertheless, all has not been misplaced.
Talking simply earlier than midnight, French President Emmanuel Macron described the hearth as a “horrible tragedy,” however added the “worst had been prevented.”
The facade and the 2 fundamental towers have been declared secure.
Macron promised a world fundraising marketing campaign to rebuild the cathedral.
“I am telling you all tonight — we are going to rebuild this cathedral collectively. That is most likely a part of the French future. And we are going to do it within the subsequent years. Beginning tomorrow, a nationwide donation scheme can be began that can lengthen past our borders,” he stated, acknowledging Notre Dame’s affect on the European psyche.
Websites like Notre Dame carry out “a up to date, spiritual function and performance,” stated Dominic Thomas, CNN European Affairs commentator and the chair of the French Division at UCLA, “however I feel they’ve gone method past that.”
These websites are the “markers of an extended historical past, a historical past of battle, of revolutions and so forth,” added Thomas. “It doesn’t matter what one’s spiritual religion could also be, they’re a part of a higher identification. They’re the cornerstone of not simply French identification, however of what one may argue might be European identification.”
It’s no shock that the French will rebuild, he stated.
CNN’s Paul Murphy, Darran Simon and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.