Shafts of orange light stream in through the shattered roof, illuminating piles of rubble still smoldering on the cathedral floor.
The once-magnificent vaulted ceiling is reduced to threadbare beams, interlaced like delicate matchsticks.
And among it all, the candles still burned.
Remarkable photos, some obtained exclusively by CNN, show the scale of damage inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, partially destroyed in a fire Monday evening.
The blaze destroyed part of the roof and sent the cathedral’s spire toppling, to the horror of thousands of onlookers.
Thanks to the hours-long work of around 400 firefighters, the main structure of the building and the two towers on the Western facade were saved.
On Tuesday afternoon, more pictures emerged of the damage inside the cathedral — debris piled up near the altar, its cross reflected in the pools of water on the ground.
The photos also reveal blocks of white rubble scattered across the cathedral floor, and embers falling from a hole in the roof.
Visiting the blackened insides of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “terrible tragedy,” but added the “worst had been avoided.”
Visibly shaken, Macron vowed to “rebuild this cathedral together” — an effort that could take decades, experts told CNN.
Some of France’s richest businessmen have already pledged hundreds of millions of euros towards the restoration. Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods group LVMH, pledged 200 million euros ($226 million).
One witness, Anne Marie, had tears in her eyes as she said: “In Paris, it’s a monumental symbol — every person with different religions are really moved and saddened,” she said.
“Paris without the cathedral is not Paris anymore.”
By Nic Robertson, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Sheena McKenzie, CNN