NORFOLK, Va. — Notre Dame Cathedral has had an influence on art and culture across the globe, including right here in Norfolk.

“It is not the biggest or most beautiful gothic cathedral in the world, but it’s the most beloved and so it figures very highly in public imagination, in literature, in art,” said ODU Dean and Professor of Art History, Dr. Robert Wojtowicz

Wojtowicz has visited the Notre Dame Cathedral multiple times, many of those occasions with a group of wide-eyed students.

“Upon approaching it you realize how it has witnessed so many centuries of history and so many important events have taken place in front of it or inside of its walls,” said Wojtowicz.

Watching as the flames consumed the iconic structure Wojtowicz thought about all the priceless treasures inside, including the historic organ, the statue of the Virgin of Paris, and the one of a kind stain glass windows.

“Enormous stained glass windows, filled with the most beautiful and intricate light filled patterns, the glass is probably the most significant loss,” said Wojtowicz.

Revered Canon Win Lewis, of Christ and Saint Lukes Episcopal Church in Norfolk, was actually planning a trip to the Cathedral later this year.

“I couldn’t believe it because our choir including my wife and myself are scheduled to sing at the Cathedral of Notre Dame this summer in July,” said Lewis.

He said the timing of the fire couldn’t be more painful with Easter less than a week away.

“It’s an experience that really displaces people at the most important time of the year,” said Lewis.

Lewis called the Cathedral one of the greatest treasures in the world. He also said the building may have burned, but what it represented spiritually can never be destroyed.  

“We weep over it, we grieve it, but we also look beyond it because there is the promise inherent in the faith that out of the ashes something new will come,” said Lewis.