Throughout the world Monday, millions watched in uncomprehending horror as one of the world’s most magnificent structures was engulfed in flames.
Paris’ iconic Cathedral of Notre Dame, built over the course of more than a century, beginning in 1163, has been justly celebrated for its awesome beauty: its towering spire, stained-glass windows and rainspout gargoyles, much of which now lies in ruins.
TV and cable stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast hours-long nonstop coverage of the carnage. French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a scheduled nationwide address on the Yellow Vest protest movement.
In a cruel irony of timing, the disaster took place just days before two of the most important observances on the Christian calendar: Good Friday and Easter.
Fire broke out late Monday during the course of renovations at the church: The wooden roof and spire quickly collapsed, and the entire frame soon was consumed.
The only saving grace: No one appeared to have been injured inside the church, which was quickly evacuated.
But the cathedral, which survived desecration and looting during the French Revolution, has been seriously damaged. Though the structure will survive, it likely will be impossible to rebuild exactly as it was.
The cathedral, of course, is best known to many through Victor Hugo’s classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” To Parisians, it was the great enduring symbol of their city’s history.
But Notre Dame belongs to the entire world — and now one of its greatest treasures has suffered unthinkable damage.
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