Notre Dame, more than 800 years old, now has an unrecognisable face.
The streets and the bridges around the cathedral were still crowded on Tuesday with Parisians and tourists alike, as people stop to stare at the damage. Police have barricaded the entire perimeter to prevent anyone from getting too close.
Cedric was working in a nearby restaurant and vividly remembers the “horrible” scene from the night before: “I do not recognise it, so much of is it missing,” he tells The Independent.
“It’s a very sad picture. For over 800 years this cathedral has been passed from generation to generation,” says David, another onlooker.
“Now I question what state we will pass it on to the generations after us.”
One family among the crowds came to the capital from North Carolina, and is staying in a hotel just 200m from the Notre Dame.
“We did not know what it was at first,” says Sarah. “I got a text message from somebody in America saying ‘are you in Paris?’”
Her 7-year-old son Zachary is still affected by what he saw yesterday.
The spire that used to rise up towards the sky was burnt to ashes, along with the largest part of the cathedral roof.
As the sun rose over the building, ashes blew across the banks of the river, along with the blossom from Notre Dame’s gardens.
But there is sense of relief that the two iconic towers that frame the entrance of the cathedral are still standing. Miraculously, the trees and vines around the building on Ile de la Cite were barely singed.
An elderly woman wondered whether the fire was a sign from god, saying: “Notre Dame is our soul. The soul of France.
“We are a Catholic country, a republic but a Catholic country nonetheless – nobody remembers that any more.”
She says she had heard the statue of the Virgin Mary had been saved, adding that it could be a miracle.
Soner, deeply moved by the images he saw Monday, travelled from Val de Marne in the suburbs, to see what was left this morning.
“I am a Muslim but my heart hurts for all Catholics. It’s terrible,” he says.
Dominique and Gérard Picard, now both retired, have always lived in the city and have many memories attached to the beloved cathedral.
“We would always cross the bridge to come see Notre Dame,” says Gerard.
His wife Dominique, looking up at the two towers that are still standing, tries to be optimistic: “I hope we can rebuild it all.”
Additional reporting by Press Association
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