By Alexandria Hoff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A massive inferno ravaged Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral Monday. The cathedral is the most visited landmark in Paris. It’s known for its architecture, artwork and religious relics.

Parisians and tourists, including CBS3’s Vittoria Woodill, are left processing the unthinkable calamity.

“I was on vacation with my husband, we were having the most beautiful time in this beautiful city surrounded by all of this history and all of this beauty, and all of this meaning, and we just cannot believe where we are right now,” Woodill said.

‘Everything Is Burning’: Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris Goes Up In Flames

Just two days prior, she basked in the beauty of the Notre Dame Cathedral from the balcony of her Paris hotel room. But with the fire, came a different view and a new sound.

“These people that you are seeing right here, some of them have been out there since the beginning, singing songs, signing in prayer, praying for this building to have something left,” Woodill said.

It’s an appeal that resonated here at home.

“The 12th century — when the building was begun — was a time when very few people were literate so the art and artifacts helped to present the narrative that people were coming to learn,” David Brigham, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, said.

Maureen Pelta is a professor of art history at Moore College of Art and Design.

“You would imagine, when you went to church, that this must be what heaven looks like,” Pelta said. “One of the things they wanted, ironically, was to make these buildings fireproof so rather than have wooden ceilings, they transitioned to ceilings that were made of stone.”

Some of those stone vaults withstood the fire, but also created oven-like conditions for firefighters. Despite the raging losses, optimism is found.

“Such an important monument in the center of Paris will find a way to be revived,” Pelta said.

“When we experience a loss like this, it reminds us that even the things that seem stable, that seem untouchable, are things that we should not take for granted,” Brigham said.

The Gothic cathedral is, in itself, an artwork and storyteller. As for the precious relics inside, some items were saved, including the tunic worn by Saint Louis, as well as the sacred Crown of Thorns.

Alexandria Hoff