Former President Barack Obama shared his sympathies with the people of France on Monday shortly after a fire engulfed Notre Dame, the iconic Parisian cathedral that has stood for more than 850 years.
“Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief,” Obama wrote, sharing an image of his family during a visit to the cathedral early in his presidency. “It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost ― but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.”
About 500 firefighters fought to quell the blaze on Monday, but it spread quickly, destroying Notre Dame’s spire and more than two-thirds of the roof, according to Paris’ fire chief. Much of the main structure was saved and “preserved,” however.
“The worst has been avoided, even though the battle is not completely won,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday night. “This is the place where we have lived all of our great moments, the epicenter of our lives. It is the cathedral of all the French.” He said the cathedral would be rebuilt.
Former first lady Michelle Obama, who is in Paris this week for a book event for her memoir, posted her own message to Twitter later Monday.
“The majesty of Notre Dame — the history, artistry, and spirituality — took our breath away, lifting us to a higher understanding of who we are and who we can be,” Michelle Obama wrote. “My heart aches with the people of France. Yet I know that Notre Dame will soon awe us again.”
The fire may be linked to extensive renovations of the cathedral. No one was killed in the incident, according to officials, but one firefighter was seriously injured battling the blaze.
Notre Dame was built between the 12th and 13th centuries and has been a landmark of Gothic architecture ever since. More than 13 million people visit the cathedral every year.