While the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned Monday afternoon, the flames were felt around the world, including here in Winnipeg.
A key symbol of France from its groundbreaking way back in 1163, through coronations of kings and emperors, two world wars, and even a Disney movie, Notre Dame has captured the imaginations of millions.
The president of the Manitoba Association of Architects said the building – designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 – is irreplaceable, although France will do its best to rebuild, as it has numerous times in the cathedral’s long, storied history.
“This building is the oldest building in Paris,” Robert Winslow told 680 CJOB.
“It has survived the French Revolution, the Bonaparte wars, World War I, World War II, the crusades, it has withstood all of that.
“So for it to come down with what might be a fire caused by renovations is really tragic.”
Winslow said the building, which appears from the outside to be made of stone, actually used a significant amount of wood in its construction, which is why the blaze was so strong Monday.
“The thing with medieval buildings of this vintage – in this case a gothic building – which is the very end of medieval architecture, is that they’re clad in stone for the most part,” he said.
“They’re supported with the buttresses and famous flying buttresses and gothic arches which give the building its structural stability and all of that beauty that we’ve all grown to appreciate so immensely.
“They’re finished with a wood shell. The entire roof, which we’ve seen burning, was entirely made out of wood. One of the more affection names for Notre Dame de Paris was ‘the forest’, because it’s actually built out of 1,300 oak columns and beams.”
Many Manitobans drew parallels to the local fire in 1968 that devastated the St. Boniface Cathedral.
“There’s a lot of parallels to be drawn because it did affect people here so much,” World Trade Centre Winnipeg president and CEO Mariette Mulaire told 680 CJOB.
“St. Boniface Cathedral was the only cathedral in western Canada. It saw St. Boniface and Winnipeg take on its growth, through so many times, so many different floods.
“When this happened in 1968, I remember it. People were crying, it was horrible. Everybody felt it. Everybody only spoke about that. This is going to be on the French people’s minds and in their hearts.”
Mulaire said many people watching the fire from a safe distance on the news may not realize just how integral Notre Dame is to France.
“This is so huge. Fourteen million tourists a year – that’s not just economically a big hit, but it affects a lot of people. A lot of people have seen this.
“It’s huge for France. It is France. I don’t know how they’re going to get over this. The effect of this is very, very big.”
Fans of architecture and world history, of course, aren’t the only people affected by the devastating fire. Catholics worldwide are mourning the fate of an iconic site for their faith.
“The destruction by fire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris today is a tragedy that goes beyond the loss of an amazing architectural icon but represents a loss of a church closely associated with French culture and history as well as Catholic tradition and heritage,” said Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg, in a statement.
“It is a very sad event that not only is a catastrophe observed by the eye but a loss felt by the heart. Notre Dame Cathedral has been an inspiration for many millions of people from different cultures and religions around the world.”
WATCH: Notre Dame fire: Crowds gather, sing ‘Ave Maria’ after cathedral burns
After the news broke yesterday, many Manitobans mourned, saying they had visited the site in previous years.