Prayers for beloved Paris icon
It's not often sunny in Paris, but people still love to walk along the banks of the Seine. They love the view of the city's old buildings, especially Notre Dame Cathedral, with its iconic spire.
Unfortunately, that view has been forever changed. On April 16, a fire destroyed the spire of the 850-year-old cathedral, and two-thirds of the roof.
The fire shocked and saddened Parisians. Citizens gathered around the giant church, singing hymns and praying for the hundreds of firefighters who fought the flames.
"The significance of Notre Dame, not only to Catholics but to all Parisians, cannot be underestimated," wrote French author Bernard-Henri Levy. "For many in France, it's more than a house of worship. It's a symbol of French culture, architecture and history."
It's no wonder that people felt sad. The church itself, after all, is a historical and artistic treasure. Built in 1163, it is one of the first Gothic cathedrals to have arched exterior supports, known as "flying buttresses". It also combined Gothic art with Christian architecture. After Notre Dame, churches throughout Europe were built taller and looked more awesome.
The church is also home to many religious artifacts, paintings and sculptures. Luckily, its world-famous stained glass rose windows survived the fire. These windows are made of many small panes and feature various Christian images.
Also safe are most of the church's holy relics. The French Minister of Culture Franck Riester said that the crown of thorns and tunic of Saint Louis, who was King of France from 1226 until 1270, are safe in Paris City Hall.
Despite its long history and many treasures, the cathedral needed the help of a writer to become truly famous. Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, presented the building to a wide audience of readers. The book's ugly lead character, Quasimodo, serves as a symbol for Paris' forgotten Gothic architecture. Hugo wrote the book to remind people of it, with hope they would work to protect the beautiful old buildings of Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to reconstruct the historic building. "Notre Dame is our history, it's our literature, it's our imagery," he said in a public speech following the fire.