Shepparton locals share sadness following Notre Dame blaze

By Shepparton News

Shepparton residents have reacted with sadness and shock at the fire which devastated Notre Dame cathedral in Paris yesterday.

Posts to The News Facebook page expressed dismay and heartbreak at the fire which gutted and destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO World Heritage building.

Many people remembered visiting the landmark building on European holidays.

Jannice Richardsonwas there eight months ago during a 60th birthday holiday.

‘‘So sad. To see something so beautifully historic that has stood for 850 years, damaged so much,’’ she said.

Bonnie Williams was ‘‘an overwhelming sadness at what is likely to be lost’’.

‘‘The thought that we might never hear the organ again.’’

Kristie Kerambrun visited the cathedral on her honeymoon five years ago.

‘‘We were both awed by it. A devastating loss,’’ she said.

Nicola Meanley visited the site as a child.

‘‘It was magical. Such a shame,’’ she said.

Yesterday, distraught Parisians and stunned tourists gazed in disbelief as the monstrous inferno tore through the cathedral.

Thousands of onlookers lined bridges over the Seine and along the river’s embankments, held at a distance by a police cordon as the blaze engulfed the cathedral’s roof.

Others gathered to say prayers and sing hymns in front of the nearby St Julien Les Pauvre church, only a few hundred metres away.

Shepparton-based historian Darius von Guttner said Notre Dame cathedral had worldwide architectural and cultural significance.

‘‘It is one of the most splendid examples of French Gothic architecture, but it is also a significant part of human culture,’’ he said.

Dr von Guttner is a European-born academic who graduated from Melbourne University, specialising in medieval history.

He said Notre Dame cathedral took 100 years to build, from 1160 to 1260, and would have involved about four generations of architects, stonemasons, sculptors, carpenters and other craftsmen.

He said the building’s most renowned features were its innovative flying buttresses and rib vaults, its magnificent stained-glass rose windows and its many fascinating gargoyles which functioned as water spouts but also featured faces meant to guard the church against evil.

He said the building had survived many cultural changes during its long history.

‘‘It exists out of the context of our ordinary lives,’’ he said.

It was built on the Île de la Cité — where Paris stared.

In the 16th century rioting Huguenots decapitated a lot of the statues.

During the French Revolution it became a ‘‘temple of reason’’. In 1804 Napoleon was made emperor at Notre Dame — then it was forgotten for a while.

Dr von Guttner said when Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published in 1831, the cathedral came back into the public’s imagination.

He said yesterday’s fire seemed to have had a similar effect.

‘‘Seeing those people watching and crying— it still has enormous public emotional attachment,’’ he said.

‘‘It is a tragic waste — but there will be a lot of public pressure to bring Our Lady of Paris back into the public imagination.’’

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would launch a campaign to rebuild the cathedral, including through fundraising efforts and by appealing to ‘‘talents’’ from overseas to contribute.

‘‘We will rebuild it together. It will undoubtedly be part of French destiny and our project for the years to come,’’ Mr Macron said.

— with AAP