On the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, lies a bronze marker. All travel distances to locations in France start from here. Notre Dame is the figurative center of France. So last night when we heard she was burning, we showed up by the thousands. At the Place St.-Michel, Catholics gathered to sing for hours on end. The Seine was lined with tourists and neighbors trying to grasp what we were seeing. A pair of nuns watched in utter calm alongside a Buddhist monk deep in a prayer as the bell towers glowed

Credit: Pierre-Charles Morin

The southern tower was merely reflecting the fire below, but we could see flames ravaging the North from inside. A man remembers listening to his uncle playing the Cathedral’s organ, thankfully spared. An elderly woman felt compelled to address the crowd, her grief flowing like the river at her feet.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, surrounded by flowering pink cherry blossom before the fire (left). Notre Dame after the terrible fire in Paris in April 2019 (right).
Featured Image Top: Erica Berman/ Above: La Cuisine Paris

We went to sleep assured by the Paris fire brigade that the structure would survive, although the spire and wooden frame were lost along with a majority of Notre Dame’s art. There was a plan in place and firefighters knew exactly which pieces to save. The crown of thorns, tower bells and St Louis’ tunic are safe and much of the altar is intact.

This morning we wake to the news that the stained glassed rose windows are whole, but exceedingly fragile; the towers too. As I watch a TF1 journalist talk, a rainbow appears behind her, brushing Notre Dame and landing in the Seine.

What was once the cathedral is now a scattering of ashes littering the square in front of Our Lady. Sirens roar and the streets along the quais are jam packed with a muted crowd.  People from across the globe are gathering to bear witness to an event that has touched us all.

But there is a promise of rebirth and rebuilding, a promise the French intend to keep with donations. François-Henri Pinault of Kering Group pledged 100 million Euros, with Bernard Arnault of LVMH adding 200 million, and the people of France pledging their money as well.

The crowds, the flowers they leave, the respects they pay, and the quick rush to donate funds for restoration, they are all a testament that no matter what happens to Notre Dame in the days to come, this site shall always be the center of France.

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Written by Sylvia Sabes for HiP Paris. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Italy, France or elsewhere in Europe? Let us know. We can help!


Sylvia Sabes

Sylvia tells stories through images and words. She has worked as a Creative Director for international ad campaigns like Cartier and LOreal, and as a National Award winning Polaroid photographer. She writes and shoots all things Paris and beyond… She lives in Paris and the French Basque Region.


  1. It is so sad…. It brings back memories of Notre Dame (before it was burnt) , the cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world.
    I tried to write a blog about it, hope you like it : https://stenote.blogspot.com/2018/06/paris-at-notre-dame.html

  2. So sad! A piece of our collective soul went up in smoke.
    I’ll like to share this blog post: https://linstantvole.blogspot.com/search/label/Notre-Dame
    in remembrance of what was

  3. Thanks for your insight and emotional report. Notre Dame is more than just a symbol, it is an architectural masterpiece of such beauty and strength that it was overwhelming to see it burn.
    Let’s look ahead and be reassured we have a plan for reconstruction.
    That is not an option on many other cases. France, thought, has such a respect for art and architecture and you should be very proud of the national reaction.

  4. Holy Week will always hold the remembrance of this sad time but resurrection will happen and memories will urge us on. I was merely a teen in 1958 when I first saw the Grand Dame. I never was the same.

  5. I am coming to Paris next Monday for the first time. I am devastated as Notre Dame was one of the tours I was most excited for. I can’t imagine how you feel, especially during Holy Week.
    I’m so sorry.

    1. We are all saddened. I hope you will be able to have a wonderful trip, and a different tour, nevertheless Mary! All the best.

  6. Easter is a time of renewal through resurrection. The rebuilding and restoration will be a worldwide process we can all join into. Notre Dame Cathedral Will once again rise from the ashes through the collective effort of many many souls. Humanity will prevail with greater inner strength and resolve.

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