Kaylin Valade took a photograph of Notre-Dame de Paris

North Port resident Kaylin Valade took a photograph of Notre-Dame de Paris in January while on vacation in France.

NORTH PORT — Of the most iconic places in the world, Notre-Dame de Paris is one often visited, rarely forgotten.

Area residents are reacting to the engulfing of the Paris cathedral that continued burning into Monday night.

The Most Rev. Frank Dewane, bishop of the Diocese of Venice, called himself “deeply shocked and saddened by the magnitude of today’s fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris,” saying he was praying nobody was hurt.

“I have been fortunate to visit Paris, not only to pray at this majestic 12th century Cathedral numerous times but was also blessed to have celebrated Mass at Notre-Dame,” he said in a statement. “This colossal loss of art and the history found at Notre-Dame is devastating to so many, particularly to the people of Paris, of France, and indeed to the Universal Catholic Church.”

The fire destroyed much of the church during Holy Week, which Dewane noted made it a “double tragedy for the people of faith.”

He acknowledged many fear the loss of “important symbols of the faith,” although there was conflicting information on what had been destroyed and what may have been saved.

North Port resident Kaylin Valade said in a Monday afternoon email that she became enamored with the cathedral after reading “Notre-Dame de Paris” by Victor Hugo when she was 18.

“Powerful, sacred, and historic, the cathedral drew me not only to learn French and to pursue literature as a career, but to meet my soulmate. She, who likewise had loved the story since she was a teenager, was introduced to me through a group of online Notre-Dame enthusiasts,” Valade said.

In January, nearly a decade after reading the book, they traveled to the cathedral — calling it her own “spiritual pilgrimage.”

“She and I were brought to tears at the site of it; people inside prayed in silent reverence whilst those outside lined up, bundled in their winter clothes, just for the chance to step inside,” Valade said. “The feeling was indescribable. There was an ancient wisdom, an authoritative presence, residing within that stone edifice that bid its attendees, be they religious or secular, pay their respects to the artifacts housed inside. The rose window, glimmering in the sunlight, was so moving in its beauty that you cannot help to feel your eyes well with tears.”

Sun photographer Monica Amaya visited the cathedral decades ago, noting the visit is burned clearly in her memory.

“The majesty of her tall Gothic architectural style is still fresh in my mind, the coldness of the stone, the colorful stained glass, and the solitude of Notre Dame of Paris statue,” Amaya wrote. “Seeing her on flames today brought great memories and sad feelings. Sadness for the art and history loss, and also because I didn’t have the opportunity to share that beautiful experience with my sons,” she said, saying she is hopeful for “a successful reconstruction.”

Valade tried to explain looking at the iconic landmark.

“Even upon merely approaching the structure, your eye is drawn nowhere else; little shops and hotels, the most pertinent of which being ‘The Esmeralda Hotel,’ carved nearly imperceptibly into the corner of a narrow bystreet, at which my beloved and I carved our names into a wooden cupboard, alongside the countless others who had visited over the decades to pay their respects to the cathedral,” she stated. “Massive, beautiful, and commanding, the cathedral was a testament to the ingenuity and the dedication of Parisians past and present. It was a symbol of hope, of humanity, and of harmony; to have it burn now is almost too much to bear.”

— Sun staff writers Kim Cool and Victoria Villanueva-Marquez contributed to this report.

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