Matthew Lazenby, who taught at Yorkshire College of Music and Drama before he moved temporarily to the French capital in January, said an element of “disbelief” remained as crowds gathered close to the ravaged landmark yesterday.
“It was as if it had all been a bad dream and everyone needed to come and see if they’d not just
been making it up,” he said.
“Amidst the devastation there was also a tangible sense of relief. The towers still stand, crowning the heart of medieval Paris. The essence of the building still remains.
“At the east end, the iconic buttressed apse is in situ but the lack of roof makes it look like a giant has taken the lid off.”
Mr Lazenby, who moved to Paris for a language course and is now working for a charity helping refugees, became aware of the “catastrophe unfolding” while leaving a mass at a church three miles from Notre Dame on Monday evening.
Coincidentally, during that mass, the preacher spoke of how the Crown of Thorns, one of the Cathedral’s biggest treasures, and now in safe keeping at the famous Louvre museum, would be reverenced on Good Friday.
“A group of us made the journey to the cathedral, stepped out of the Métro station and wept immediately,” Mr Lazenby, who was organist at St Martin’s Church in Potternewton and choral conductor at Horsforth Choral Society, said.
“The streets were lined with people yet were almost silent as the crowds shed tears, embraced each other and looked on in paralysed disbelief,” he said.
“At that point the spire had already collapsed and a mohican of flames ran the full length of the roof of the nave.”
Last night, just as crowds gathered on Monday, people came together in song and prayer in the shadows on Notre Dame, Mr Lazenby, 27, said.
“As the string ensemble accompanied the singing and the French flag was gently but surely waved, there was a serene atmosphere of thanksgiving amongst the sadness after the desperation of the night before,” he said.
“A fire engine passed and again there was much cheering and applause. A sense that the future starts now and that she will rise again.
“A city united by its love for a special place that nobody ever wants to lose.”