News

Crowds In Paris Sing ‘Ave Maria’ In Front Of Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

This is very moving.

What does one do while witnessing the burning of one the world’s most famous churches — an iconic symbol of a city and country? For some on-site at the destructive April 15 fire, which caused extensive damage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the way to cope was to sing to the cathedral’s namesake, Notre Dame — Our Lady.

As crowds of people stood watching a fire that started around 6:30 p.m. Paris time Monday near the famous spire of Notre Dame, photos and video captured people praying and weeping, dumbfounded.

notre dame fire photo
Getty Images | Veronique de Viguerie

Spontaneous singing also broke out, including groups intoning “Ave Maria,” a famous hymn in honor of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother.

Bernardino León Reyes, a doctoral student in Paris at @berna_leon, shared video on Twitter of one such group singing near a Paris bridge by Notre Dame.

In a column translated here from its original Spanish, journalist Ignacio Gil wrote about the crowds watching Notre Dame burn.

“But what I will never forget is the Hail Mary that was sung by two dozen believers, half of them, the youngest, on their knees,” he said in El Mundo. “With feeling. Well toned. Impassive before those who photographed or videotaped them. They were on the side of the little garden next to another Catholic church, San Julián el Pobre. Next to the legendary bookstore Shakespeare & Company.”

Getty Images

Gil also posted footage of the singing on Twitter, at @Inaki_Gil.

He also posted a video of a group of onlookers watching silently as the fire blazed on:

Notre Dame was finished in 1345 but renovated and added onto over the years. The April 15 fire destroyed the cathedral’s tall spire and almost all of its roof.

Some of the valuable relics, artifacts, and artwork in the cathedral were saved from the building. Around 400 firefighters stopped the fire from spreading to the cathedral’s two towers over the course of nine hours before it was contained.

notre dame paris photo
Getty Images | Veronique de Viguerie

Much-needed renovations on the medieval church were being done when the fire started. It is uncertain at this time what role the renovations played in the fire, but an investigation has already begun.

French president Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter in the wake of the fire that the cathedral would be rebuilt.

Getty Images

“This Notre-Dame Cathedral, we will rebuild it. All together,” he said in the English translation of the French post at @EmmanuelMarcon. “This is part of our French destiny. I am committed to this: from tomorrow a national subscription will be launched, and far beyond our borders.”

Monetary pledges towards rebuilding Notre Dame are already coming in. Among the earliest supporters is French billionaire François-Henri Pinault (seen below), husband to actress Salma Hayek. He has pledged $113 million (100 million euros) towards the effort.

The New York Times International Luxury Conference - Day 2
Getty Images | Larry Busacca

The fire has damaged a priceless structure — but rebuilding Notre Dame has happened before, and will happen again. And though the devastating incident has left many in shock, it has not been enough to suppress the spirit of the people that support it.