The footage shows the packed Palm Sunday service that took place just one day before the Parisian landmark was devastated. A congregation of clergyman proceed up the central aisle wafting giant palm leaves, as per the Lent tradition, as the golden hanging lights cast the cathedral under a soft orange glow – a frightening foreshadowing of what was to come. Palm Sunday is celebrated by the blessing and distribution of palm branches or the branches of other native trees representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem.
It is one of the most important dates in the Lent calendar and always falls on the Sunday before Easter.
The blaze took hold of the cathedral on Monday afternoon at approximately 6.30 pm, destroying the roof of the building along with its famous spire.
Many stained glass windows were also reportedly blasted from their frames.
There was an air of mourning in Paris as the sun rose on Tuesday with hundreds of people gathering on the banks of the Seine to view the devastation at Notre Dame.
An elderly woman wondered whether the fire was a sign from god, saying: “Notre Dame is our soul. The soul of France.
“We are a catholic country, a republic but a catholic country nonetheless – nobody remembers that any more.”
She said she had heard the statue of the Virgin Mary had been saved, adding that it could be a miracle.
Another woman said: “I think it can be rebuilt, but it could take years and years – I am 79 and today, I don’t know if I will ever see Notre Dame whole again.”
As the sun rose over the building, ashes from the cathedral’s spire blew across the banks of the river, along with the blossom from Notre Dame’s gardens.
Miraculously, the trees and vines around the building on Ile de la Cite were barely singed, while the bell towers and the enormous circular window of the nave appeared to be intact.
Despite the fierce heat that consumed Notre Dame’s spire, scaffolding previously erected for restoration work was also still standing.
One refuse working collecting litter on the banks of the Seine said: “It’s incredible (the scaffolding) didn’t fall.”
Daniel Etieve, 70, said: “It’s a very sad picture. For over 800 years this cathedral has been passed from generation to generation.
“Now I question what state we will pass it on to the generations after us.”
One man, who gave his name only as Fabrice, said he was grieving for the incredible timber beams and wooden carvings that characterised Notre Dame’s vaulted ceiling.
The 55-year-old art historian said: “The ceiling was known as ‘the forest’ because of all the thousands of trees that were cut to build it.
“I feel very sad but also I am happy that most of the building is still here.”