Hundreds gathered in the streets, as one of the greatest historical sites in Paris burns to the ground. As the flames rage, artwork burns, and the iconic spire topples to the ground, the people are left heartbroken and empty. On Monday night, the Notre Dame Cathedral caught aflame, suffering extensive damage as a result. As of Tuesday morning, the fire has been completely put out. Despite the severity of the fire, no one died as a result of the accident. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but some have speculated that is was a stray spark from construction equipment. Whatever the case, the city is focusing on rebuilding their beloved cathedral. 
The Notre Dame's rooftop burning throughout the day. Photo courtesy of theendofhistory.net
The Notre Dame’s rooftop burning throughout the day. Photo – Ian Langsdon/EPA

More than a Religious Site

The Notre Dame Cathedral holds great cultural and religious significance, but the importance of the building goes far beyond that. The cathedral is 856 years old, hosting numerous pieces of art that date back hundreds of years. It was only thanks to combined efforts that many works of art were able to be saved from the fire. 
 
“The structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been put somewhere safe, thanks to the combined action of the different services of the State working together,” the Paris Fire Brigade said. 
 
Notre Dame was a major part of tourism and life in Paris, as it was the site of many historical events. One of the most notable was the beatification of Joan of Arc, who had burned at the stake during the Hundred Years War. Other notable historic figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, took great interested in the Cathedral. It has stood strong in the city of Paris for hundreds of years. 
 
“We are rebuilders,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “There’s a great deal to be rebuilt. And we will make the cathedral of Notre Dame even more beautiful. We can do this and we will mobilize everybody.”
 
Beyond the historical significance, for the people of Paris, this cathedral is part of their culture. It has stood for hundreds of years, a constant part of the city for those who visit and live there. As the cathedral burned, hundreds stood in the street to watch, heartbroken.
 
“I opened the window and immediately my eyes welled up,” Jordan Doyle said. She happened to be in Paris for her honeymoon. “It was beautiful to see people coming together for their city and for Notre Dame. You could honestly feel their sadness. It really felt like they were serenading the building.”

Bringing a City Together

This is not the first time the Notre Dame Cathedral has suffered damage. In fact, it’s far from it. This isn’t even the first time the cathedral has caught fire. Even further, the Notre Dame Cathedral received extensive damages and neglect during the French Revolution. It was actually the publishing of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that brought it back into the public eye. Many took interested in the building once more, bringing it into a new form of popularity. This spurred on restorations and repairs to the historic building, which had been desperately needed.
 
“This will require a lot of work since, beyond shoring and reinforcement, it will be necessary to build a scaffolding with an umbrella to be able to cover the entire roof that went missing, to ensure protection against weathering,” Frédéric Létoffé, the head of the Restoration of Historic Monuments said
 
The cathedral has been rebuilt and had numerous renovations throughout its lifetime. It has become evident that this will not be the end for the cathedral, for many have already begun to collect donations. As major parts of the cathedral such as the bell towers still stand, there is a fair amount that is salvageable. In the short time since the historic site caught fire, people have raised 700 million dollars to help repair it. This is only the money that people donated, it does not account for the money given by the City of Paris or the French government. Many have come together to mourn this historic beauty, but also to try and repair what remains.
 
“The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends,” President Macron said. “And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched.