‘The church is burning and the whole world is crying’ – Parisians mourn for Notre-Dame

Parisians gathered in sombre contemplation on Tuesday morning to witness the destruction left by the blaze which had ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral the previous night.

'The church is burning and the whole world is crying' - Parisians mourn for Notre-Dame
Photo: The Local France

While the roads surrounding the immediate area were still closed off to members of the public, people crowded at every possible vantage point to take photos and discuss the horrifying blaze, with the smell of burning still in the air. 

The daylight revealed the extent of the damage, with shards of stained glass from priceless medieval windows, and a gaping hole above the choir area where the spire crashed down. 
“I'm very sad. I live in this arrondissement and Notre-Dame is part of my every day life. The cathedral is a great symbol of Paris and I used to visit every year with my mother,” Julie told The Local. 
“I came down to watch it last night and I couldn't believe my eyes.”
The hundreds of Parisians and tourists gathered on the banks of the river Seine were stunned by the damage and the atmosphere was noticeably subdued. 
“I am so sad. We will rebuild it but it will never be the same again – the wood will come from a different forest, the carpenter will be different,” Evelyne told The Local. 
“It is a symbol of the history of my city and it was like a nightmare watching those images last night, watching the spire fall,” she added.  
Two women were praying in front of the cathedral in the drizzling rain among the crowds of locals, tourists and journalists from all over the world. 

“I'm devastated, even if I haven't been a Catholic for a long time,” 88-year-old Claire told AFP at the scene on Tuesday morning. “I was baptised here.”

Philippe Marsset, the vicar general of Notre-Dame, was among the first to enter the storied Gothic cathedral whose sculpted arches have been blackened by smoke and pews destroyed on Tuesday morning.
“It felt like I was looking at a bombing,” Marsset said of the church where he was ordained a priest 31 years ago.
“It was hell,” he said, describing the moment when the blaze was discovered on the soaring roof shortly after evening mass ended shortly at 7pm on Monday.
“All night long I saw men going past with tears in their eyes. I described it this way: It was total chaos, but we can't let it knock us down,” Marsset said.

“This church was built 850 years ago. It withstood the wars, it withstood the bombings, it resisted everything,” he said. 
Yet not all was lost: the crucifix standing over the main altar was one of several objects which escaped destruction.
“It's not the Notre-Dame (Our Lady) of Catholics. It's Notre-Dame of France, Notre-Dame of the world,” he adds. 
“The church is burning, and the entire world is crying.”
The horrific fire was finally declared extinguished at around 10am on Tuesday, over 15 hours after the fire first started in the attic of the famous cathedral.
“The whole fire has been extinguished. Now we're in the phase of investigating,” spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters at around 10:00 am (0800 GMT), adding that the fire had spread “very quickly” through the wooden roof of the world renowned monument.
Briefing reporters in front of Notre-Dame in central Paris, Plus said firefighters had focused during the morning on the cathedral's two massive bell towers and making sure they had not been damaged.
“That is the case,” he said.
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Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.