Forget nationality or religion, everyone on Earth has reason to grieve today. To the French; "Je vous adresse mes sincères condoléances." The Notre Dame, an 856-year-old treasure, is burning down.

The Notre-Dame is the symbol of France; the Eiffel Tower is little more than a century old and cannot challenge this building for pride of place in the hearts of the French.

Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s, housing many works of medieval mastery.

Many of those looking on as flames are crying, singing. France is not terribly religious, but this goes beyond that.

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Last year, the Catholic Church in France successfully appealed for funds to save the 850-year-old Gothic building, which was crumbling. Notre Dame was undergoing a $6.8 million renovation when the devastating fire broke out

Churches around France are ringing their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame.

Historian Camille Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV the fire was destroying "invaluable heritage."

"For 800 years the Cathedral has watched over Paris", he said.

"Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.

"We can be only horrified by what we see".