They sang hymns. They embraced each other. They watched in shocked, helpless silence as 850 years of history looked as though it might collapse.
"It feels like a national hero was shot," writes a friend, who was standing amongst the crowd. "The mood in the air is like at a funeral. Everyone is in mourning."
Thankfully, all was not lost. Although the Gothic spire – once the highest point in the city – fell… and the roof was badly damaged… the 12th century oak beams stood, and the towers remain.
The city will rebuild, says the president. (Already, €300 million has been pledged for the purpose, mostly from wealthy families and private companies.)