The French president warned the battle is not won at Notre Dame and could continue for days. Picture: Philippe Wojazer
The French president warned the battle is not won at Notre Dame and could continue for days. Picture: Philippe Wojazer

Why the world is devastated by Notre Dame fire

THOUSANDS of people around the world have expressed their sadness after a fire tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

Australian National University historian and former Toowoomba resident Dr Gemma Betros said the history and significance of the building played a strong part in that sadness.  

"It's really extraordinary how it has survived so much upheaval... the revolution... it escaped damage in the First and Second World War, so it's deeply saddening to see it destroyed at the moment it's being restored," Dr Betros said.

"How do you rebuild something like that?"

Dr Betros said the cathedral had an interesting history.

"It's always been a very important site for the French monarchy... it was important during the French revolution when the revolution dismantled all the Catholic churches. It was used for storage for things like animals and supplies," Dr Betros said.

Notre Dame Cathedral ravaged by fire in Paris: A raging fire has engulfed the roof of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral and toppled its spire as thousands of people watch on in horror from the streets below.

"Napoleon Bonaparte had his coronation there, where he crowned himself Emperor of France.

"In 1793 it became a Temple of Reason. Once the church had been dismantled there was an attempt to create an Atheistic religion, something to replace Catholicism."

Dr Betros said one of the most significant factors that firmly placed Notre Dame in people's hearts was the release of Victor Hugo's book The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

"Before that it was seen as a remnant of France's medieval past, it wasn't appreciated until the 19th century," she said.

"You can't underestimate the influence of Victor Hugo in restoring the Parisian relationship with the church."

Dr Betros said it wasn't a surprise people around the world were saddened by the fire.

"It's an iconic part of the Parisian landscape... it's the equivalent of Sydney Opera House," she said.

"It's a part of what it means to be French, that's why so many feel a devastating loss."

"Everyone has a small place in their hearts for Paris. For Catholics it's an important site, but obviously there are a lot of non-Catholics who feel a bond with the Cathedral."

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The French prosecutor has launched an investigation.

As Victor Hugo wrote: "Every part, every stone of this venerable monument is a page not only of the history of the country, but of that of science and art".