Roses have been laid near Notre-Dame-de Paris Cathedral a day after a fire devastated the cathedral in central Paris on April 16, 2019.
CNN  — 

The world watched on Monday as a fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, causing the collapse of the cathedral’s iconic spire and the destruction of its roof structure, which dated back to the 13th century.

Travelers from all over the world shared cherished memories of their visits to one of the most beloved religious structures in the world with CNN. Here are their stories.

Hilts said this was her mother's last trip.

Jill Hilts, 71, Southern California, treasures this photo of her mother, Phyllis, siting on a bench outside the cathedral in 2000. They visited Paris a few months before Phyllis was diagnosed with ALS.

“We did not know this would be her last trip,” Hilts said. Her mom died in 2003.

Hilts said her mom’s back was bothering her, so she waited on the bench while she went inside to light a candle.

“My memories of this beautiful sanctuary, especially the windows and statues, are embedded forever and intertwined with my love for her,” Hilts said.

Catherine Furey visited as a college student.

Catherine Furey, 24, Pennsylvania, is a devout Catholic who’s been to church almost every Sunday since she was a baby.

She said going to Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral as a college student in 2014 made her beliefs even stronger.

“The Mass was in French, and all of the tourists attending spoke different languages. We all followed along and replied in our own languages. It was extraordinary,” Furey said.

Seeing the Crown of Thorns, which some believe was placed on the head of Jesus during the crucifixion, gave her the overwhelming feeling that “Wow, this is real.”

“As soon as they took the cover off the crown, I wept and was filled with an immense feeling of love and gratitude for the sacrifice on the cross,” she said. “I have never doubted my faith since that day.”

Furey is now a military spouse and going to optometry school. She heard about the fire on her way to class. She said she kept checking for updates on Monday, even though she had a neuroanatomy final the next day.

“I cried when I saw the crown was safe,” she said. “What a miracle they managed to save so much.”

Scott Ferrell, Kansas City, Missouri, still remembers seeing Notre Dame for the first time as a child in the 1960s.

“Even at 9 years old, I so well understood the beauty of being in this very special place in Paris,” he said.

Ferrell was a military dependent and said they studied French every day at the US Army school he attended. They also took a lot of field trips, including a boat trip down the Seine River.

“As we traveled along the river, I saw the Notre Dame Cathedral come into view to my right. I was caught by the beauty of the cathedral and just amazed at not only how large it was but how incredible the architecture was,” he said. “I wish I had photos to share but all I have [are] memories tucked away in my memory.”

Natalie Esparza poses for a photo in 2007.

Natalie Esparza, 35, Detroit, first visited in 2000 and was “absolutely spellbound.”

“This cathedral had so much meaning for me as a person interested in art history and medieval history. Outside of its religious connotations, it stands for the progress of man. Its lasting historical value to what we can accomplish in our artistic and mathematical endeavors will not be matched.”

The art major visited again in 2007 during her honeymoon.

“I remember the time we went on my honeymoon and as we were walking through the main doors we saw their choir singing, and to stand there and listen to a hymn that might have been sung centuries earlier was truly awe-inspiring. To this day I can still hear it and it sends goosebumps up my arms.”

Maxime Lapeyre last visited in 2018.

Maxime Lapeyre, 33, Angers, France, regularly visited Paris growing up and remembers his trip in 1996 with his family as they explored the cathedral.

“That day we visited the inside of the cathedral, I remember being impressed by the size of the two towers, and by the people inside. Years later, as an adult I moved to Paris for work and spent six years there. It always stood out as one of the most beautiful monuments in Paris. And to me it always meant good memories of that day with my family.”

Lapeyre now lives in New Zealand.

Rona Moody designed this stained glass in St Andrews Psalter Lane Church in the UK.

Rona Moody, 64, Scotland, visited in 1974 to celebrate the end of her freshman year of college. She was inspired by art inside the cathedral and now is a stained glass artist in Pennsylvania.

“One day we had too much to drink and it was a hot day so we went in to the cathedral to find a shaded seat. As we sat there looking around, I was amazed by the glass and announced that this was what I wanted to do with my life. After I left university, I persuaded a stained glass artist to take me on. Now I make stained glass, I teach it, I research it and I write about it, and have done all my life (I am now 64 and still remember that excitement).”

Jon Simpson captured this image from inside during his trip in April 2018.

Jon Simpson, 55, Cedar Falls, Iowa, visited one year ago this week and said he was “in awe of the beauty.”

“While I saw many beautiful places on this trip, I was in awe of the Notre Dame cathedral the most….the detail, craftsmanship….the entire place is a work of art. I was amazed by what was accomplished with the technology and tools of the day, and it will probably always be the most beautiful man-made thing I’ve ever seen.”

Victoria Gallert took this picture when she visted in 2012.

Victoria Gallert, 33, Detroit, visited several times and most recently in 2017 with her 5-month-old son.

“It was just so breathtaking. When you walk around it, in it and just see the intricate thought that went into creating such a beautiful house of worship. The love that went into it, you can feel it when you visit. Every time we go to Paris we take the hourlong Seine boat tour – it never gets old as it’s so relaxing and to see the beautiful iconic cathedral come around the corner brings a certain calmness in your heart.”

Vicky East visited with her granddaughter in May 2018.

Vicky East, 50, Canada, visited last year to celebrate her birthday along with her daughter, who turned 21.

“We went to Notre Dame and sat and listened while a Mass was taking place one evening. It was a beautiful contemplative place that meant so much to so many. It didn’t matter if you were French or not, Catholic or not; it was just a very special place. Seeing this iconic building so ravaged by this fire is truly devastating.”

Paula Bristol, 70, Quincy, Illinois, had visited the cathedral several times and shared the experience with her granddaughter, Hailey, in 2016.

“The first time I saw Notre Dame is etched into my memory. I was on a night cruise along the Seine river. It was incredibly moving. I attended mass on July 4, 1982, in the Notre Dame Cathedral. Of course I admire the beautiful architecture and the rose window. But more noticeable to me was the peace and serenity within the church.”

Do you have personal memories of visiting Notre Dame? Share your Notre Dame stories with us and tell us what the cathedral has meant to you.