Taiwan's public and private sectors and France's de facto embassy in the country voiced heartfelt sadness and sympathy after a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday evening (local time) destroyed the 850-year-old cathedral's iconic spire and roof.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) tweeted that she was saddened to see the images of a burning NotreDame Cathedral, which she described as "a magnificent cultural treasure in the world."
"Our thoughts are with all in #France," Tsai wrote on Twitter.
She also directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to convey Taiwan's concern over the tragedy to France and expressed hope the cathedral will be rebuilt, according to the Presidential Office.
Meanwhile, also on Twitter, MOFA extended condolences to the people of France and Catholics around the world over the devastating fire at the famous cathedral overnight.
"Taiwan stands with you at this time of great sorrow," the ministry tweeted.
At the same time, the French Office in Taipei, which represents France's interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, said in a Facebook post that the country will continue to move forward.
"We will reconstruct Notre-Dame Cathedral," it emphasized,identifying the cathedral as the heart of Paris, the historic andculture heritage of France.
In the face of such a tragedy, the office said thanks to all those who have shown their solidarity across the world and in Taiwan.
Public Television Service (PTS) Chairperson Tchen Yu-chiou (陳郁秀), who studied at Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris and lived in Paris for 11 years, said Tuesday that it was heart-breaking to see Notre-Dame Cathedral in flames as it played an important role in her youth.
Every Parisian considers Notre-Dame Cathedral part of his/her life, forming a strong emotional bond not only with the cultural world but also across France, Tchen said.
Tchen recalled that she used to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the cathedral when she lived in Paris, and that about 10 years ago when she visited the city, officials from France's Ministry of Culture took her into the cathedral's bell tower.
They also showed her where architects had covertly installed statues in the cathedral for the purpose of commemoration, Tchen said, noting that much had been consumed by the flames.
The devastation caused by the fire is "a grievous loss not only to the people of France but also to the whole world," she said.
Meanwhile, Lin Chi-ming (林志明), director of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, said that during his last visit to Paris in March, he walked through the cathedral and marveled at its impressive condition.
Notre-Dame Cathedral was built in the Gothic style and home to invaluable works of art and artifacts, including its stained-glass windows, flying buttresses, sculptures and carved-stone gargoyles, according to Lin.
The cathedral is a symbol of human civilization and human achievements in the arts and architecture. It featured in Victor Hugo's 1830s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which helped make it an even more famous landmark, Lin said.
Saying he was sad to hear about the fire, Wang Wei-chou (王維周), an assistant professor at National Taipei University of Technology's Architecture Department, recalled when he studied in Ecole de Chaillot in 2000, he visited the cathedral's iconic 13th century spire and roof.
He was very much impressed by the 800-year wooden structure at the time, Wang said, but now the fire has destroyed the spire, "it's like a page from the history of architecture being torn out."
A staff member of the Society of Jesus in Taiwan, Lee Yu-jung (李宥蓉), commented that it felt like her home was destroyed in the fire.
Otried Chan (陳科), secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference, informally known as the Bishops' Conference of Taiwan, said that he felt grief about the damage to the cathedral and was eager to know what caused the fire.
The damage resulted in a huge loss to Catholics who lost a place to put their minds at ease, Chan said, and for them "Notre-Dame Cathedral plays an important role."
However, churches are built and disappear, he went on, but for Catholics, belief is more important than any building.
Chan also said that if France seeks to raise funds to reconstruct the cathedral, the group would give whatever it could.