By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Holding nearly a millennium of history’s triumphs and scars, one of the great symbols of the Catholic Church is still standing after a fire nearly destroyed it. Flames brought down the spire and much of the roof at Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday, at the start of holy week.

Though covered in debris, the cathedral’s main altar was largely unharmed, as was much of the historic interior. The fire appears to have started accidentally during a major renovation project.

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Prayers poured in from around world as the famed Cathedral smoldered. Some Christians in the Twin Cities say they are inspired by the outpouring of support around the world and here at home.

Bells rang out at noon at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis Monday morning for France’s historic Cathedral.

“It’s such an icon of architecture, of art and of the Catholic Church throughout the world,” Johan Van Parys, the Basilica’s director of liturgy, said.

At the Basilica’s Chapel of St. Joseph, there was a special mass, with a homily given by Father Harry Tasto.

“Although it all looked dreadful yesterday it was extinguished in five hours,” Tasto said.

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Van Parys said it was especially inspiring to see the Notre Dame’s alter cross still standing.

“It’s very symbolic that that gold crucifix, that gold cross still shown so brightly in the midst of all this destruction,” he said.

Worshippers at the Basilica also have the opportunity to sign a special book that people can write in with their thoughts and prayers for the Cathedral. That book filled with messages and prayers of support will be sent to the Archbishop of Paris.

Those who came to the mass said they had to honor this special place.

“I think it was all the prayers and people crying out yesterday that helped put the fire out in five hours. I happen to believe God had a hand in it,” parishioner Mary Syfax Noble said.

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You can go to the Basilica of St. Mary and sign that book of thoughts and prayers for Notre Dame through the end of Holy Week, which is this Easter Sunday.

Esme Murphy