By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer
The spire of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral collapsed Monday night in the French capital city after a devastating fire caused the church to go up in flames. In a New York Times article, it was evaluated that the main structure is in tact while two-thirds of the roof were “severely damaged.”
The church’s spire and much of the wooden ceiling have been engulfed by flames, as well as some of the stained glass windows. The cause of the fire is unknown and no deaths were recorded, yet the cathedral has suffered “extensive damage,” according to CBS. 500 firefighters were deployed and fought the fire for five hours. The fire began Monday evening around 6:30 p.m., and a video of Notre Dame covered in flames began circulating online. The church was already in need of repair before the fire and was undergoing renovation.
Piedmont, Okla., senior Payton Strubhar recently visited the cathedral while on a Baylor study abroad trip and was horrified to hear the news of the church’s damage due to the fire.
“When I heard the news, I thought it couldn’t be real—it seemed to me like Notre Dame was too important and too special to be subjected to something as common as a fire,” Strubhar said. “Once I started looking at news coverage of the fire, I was heartbroken and sick to my stomach. My heart goes out to those in Paris and all over for who this church represents so much more than just a sightseeing spot.”
Notre Dame is one of Paris’ most famous landmarks and serves as an example of architecture in the French Gothic and early Romanesque styles. It’s also a sight full of French history, and where Napoleon was crowned emperor in the 19th century. According to the New York Times, the Notre Dame receives nearly 30,000 visitors every day.
Stephenville junior Claudia Landa also saw Notre Dame while studying abroad in Paris and appreciates the spot for its architecture and for the symbolic role it plays for the French people.
“I think the architecture of Notre Dame as well as the treasures it holds within are captivating — the cathedral represents a large part of France’s history and culture,” Landa said. “Hearing the news today was heartbreaking — I was there a little over a year ago and actually stayed across the Seine River. I loved Paris for all its history and you could see it wherever you looked.”
Strubhar similarly noted seeing Notre Dame as an almost surreal experience and as one she remembers vividly from her trip to Paris.
“I visited Notre Dame last October during my fall break when I was studying abroad,” Strubhar said. “The experience was an out-of-body one for me. To see this building in real life with such a history that I had seen for so long in pictures was awe-inspiring. I thought it was strange that a building could have such a presence, but it really did.”
Along with the Notre Dame fire, France has experienced recent turmoil with violent “Yellow Jacket” protests that began in November in response to planned tax increases, as well as a series of terrorist attacks in 2015. Landa sees the French as resilient people who are able to band together in the midst of horrific tragedy.
“I know this event has caused many of the French pain—it’s a symbolic landmark to them and the nation they’re so proud to be a part of,” Landa said. “I think this will definitely bring people together, as the cathedral is one of Paris’ esteemed landmarks and they are greatly affected by it. The French always have a way of banding together in times of need or pain—they’re a strong people and will make sure Notre Dame is restored.”
French president Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on a live broadcast and on Twitter, where he described the tragic event as one that will greatly affect the people of France.
“Notre Dame is aflame. Great emotion for the whole nation,” Macron’s Tweet said. “Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight.”