People cry and pray as they look at flames burning the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, 15 April 2019

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Watching the cathedral go up in flames is deeply upsetting for the locals

No different website represents France fairly like Notre-Dame.

Its fundamental rival as a nationwide image, the Eiffel Tower, is little greater than a century previous. Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris for the reason that 1200s.

It has given its identify to one of many nation’s literary masterpieces. Victor Hugo’s novel Hunchback of Notre-Dame is understood to the French merely as Notre Dame de Paris.

The final time the cathedral suffered main harm was in the course of the French Revolution, when statues of saints had been hacked by anti-clerical hotheads. The constructing survived the 1871 Commune rebellion, in addition to two world wars, largely unscathed.

It’s inconceivable to overstate how stunning it’s to look at such an everlasting embodiment of our nation burn.

Locals should not well-known for his or her sunny disposition, however few can stroll alongside the banks of the Seine within the central a part of the capital with out feeling their spirits rise on the majestic bulk of Notre-Dame.

It is without doubt one of the few sights certain to make a Parisian be ok with residing there.

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Media captionThe main operation to attempt to save the constructing

Like all cherished locations all over the place, it isn’t one residents go to fairly often. Within the three a long time I spent in my native metropolis, I am unable to have been inside Notre-Dame greater than three or 4 occasions – after which solely with international guests.

There are numerous of these. The cathedral is not only the most well-liked vacationer website in Western Europe. Eight centuries after its completion, it is usually nonetheless a spot of worship – about 2,000 companies are held there yearly.

However it is usually way more than a non secular website. President Emmanuel Macron has expressed the shock of a “entire nation” on the fireplace. As Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo mentioned, Notre Dame is “a part of our frequent heritage”.

Lots of these wanting on as flames engulf the constructing are in tears. Their dismay is shared by believers and non-believers alike in a nation the place religion has lengthy ceased to be a binding pressure.