One of the most iconic churches in France, Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), burned for eight straight hours before a team of 400 French firefighters were able to tame the blaze.
A fire that began in the early evening, quickly raced through the building’s iconic steeple roof, turning it to ash within hours.
Parisians watched in stunned silence, as an iconic part of their history and a symbol of their city turned to dust in front of their eyes.
More than 400 firemen were needed to tame the inferno that consumed the roof and brought down the spire of the eight-centuries-old cathedral. They worked through the night to bring the fire under control some 14 hours after it began.
The fire led to an outpouring of grief on social media. Here are some reasons why the cathedral was so important.
Notre Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is one of the oldest surviving Roman Catholic churches in the world, and one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe.
Construction started in 1160 under the authority of Bishop Maurice de Sully, and it was decided that the structure would lie besides the Seine River, in Paris.
The church was finished in 1260, but was modified frequently over the centuries. During the French Revolution, it survived desecration by the revolutionaries, who ended up destroying much of its religious and historical artifacts.
The building is about 130 metres high with a width of 48 metres.
Notre Dame has been the backdrop to some of France’s most famous, and infamous, events.
In 1431, when Henry VI of England was crowned King of France during the Hundred Years’ War, he chose to conduct the ceremony at Notre Dame.
During the French Revolution and until Napoleon put a stop to it, the cathedral hosted the Cult of Reason; an atheistt sect, which revelled in the worship of ‘reason’.
The cathedral was later chosen as the venue for the coronation of the now-emperor, Napoleon I.
Immortalised by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo, one of France’s greatest novelists, published the novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ in 1831, immortalising the cathedral in literary canon.
Hugo enshrined the values of Gothic architecture among his contemporaries and one of his key aims was for the book to help preserve medieval architecture.
The popularity of the book led to major renovations at Notre-Dame, as well as other Gothic historic sites in France in the 19th century.
Cathedral is dotted with sculptures illustrating biblical stories, rib vault archways and flying buttresses on its exterior. It also includes sculptures of various mythical creatures and monsters, which serve as symbols of dangers for those who do not follow the teachings of the church.
While many sculptures and decorations were destroyed during the anti-religious violence of the French Revolution, they were restored by the acclaimed French architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.