Beneath the light rain that greeted a sleepless Parisian dawn yesterday, there was one over-riding emotion: That some sort of miracle had occurred in the early hours as it transpired one of the world’s greatest medieval buildings had survived wholesale destruction.
The near-cataclysmic fire which had raged through the Cathedral of Notre Dame for eight hours during the night had finally been brought under control and smothered by first light.
Notre Dame has, without doubt, been horribly damaged.
France, along with much of the world, has been deeply shocked at the near-demise of ‘Our Lady of Paris’.
Yesterday evening, fresh images of the wreckage were released showing the aisle piled high with charred and twisted timbers.
Yet it could have been so very much worse.
The 850-year-old towers which stand guard over the entrance and the immortal bells hanging within are in one piece.
So, too, is some of the stained glass.
‘Our Lady’ lives on, bloodied but unbowed.
At the same time, the fire had produced another miracle of sorts.
This avowedly secular country suddenly seemed to have rediscovered its sense of the spiritual yesterday, if only for a few hours.‘I have never known so many people talking openly about God, about religion and saying prayers in public,’ said caterer Marie-Astrid d’Arras.
Even avowed atheists took to social media to profess how moved they had been by this poignant symbol of defiance.
Several Anglophile Parisians said it reminded them of that famous wartime image of St Paul’s Cathedral standing tall during the Blitz.
For the authorities, there were more earthly considerations, notably finding out how the hell this had all happened in the first place.
France might be praying a little louder than usual.
But it is also pretty angry, too.
President Emmanuel Macron knows he needs to show a firm grip on every aspect of this episode and his interior minister Christophe Castaner vowed to identify the culprits yesterday.
Attention was firmly focused on the contractors responsible for repair work on the roof in the area where the fire broke out.
The fact that it started just moments after the end of the working day could provide a link.
A key issue will be the cost.
Under French law, the ownership of the cathedral rests with the State but the French taxpayer received a handsome head start yesterday when two of the country’s richest families pledged $400 million before breakfast.
By last night, the fighting fund had hit over $800 million.
The world loves Notre Dame.
And she’s still standing.