Just as it started to feel like the first flowers of spring might finally arrive, the surreal news of Notre Dame in flames rushed across the ocean.

And although the fire’s eventual containment brought some relief, the trauma remains.

It’s still too soon to know the full extent of the damage.

As of Tuesday, reports said that some priceless treasures — including the magnificent rose window, sculptures of the Apostles and the crown of thorns believed to be worn by Jesus Christ — have been saved. The fate of other relics, the great organ, the cathedral’s famed bells, and numerous paintings and sculptures is still being assessed.

Notre Dame has an inescapable and colorful past. It was the burial site of France’s former kings and queens, the silent witness of their royal marriages and coronations as well as the place of notorious suicides and, no less, a tightrope escapade. It has had more than its share of ravishes, riots, stray bullets, neglect and reconstructions. Its spire, in fact, had been damaged before by wind and later replaced by one more slender and ornate.

Still, we persist in assuming that such beloved and cared for things like Notre Dame are invulnerable. That such cherished pinnacles of human achievement might not endure seems unthinkable, and rightly so. It is too painful to imagine they will not.

So to watch the cathedral’s elegant spire snap in two like a brittle twig, engulfed by massive flames, felt as if hell had reached into the bowels of the church, turning the unimaginable into a bleak reality. Monday’s fire harshly reminded us that even if something endures for centuries, even if we take expert care of that thing, and even if it is among humanity’s most prized possessions, it can still be taken from us.

Notre Dame’s gaping roof and charred interior flies in the face of all that we hold most dear; and, worse, counter to all that we currently are being led to believe. We are often told that A.I. will soon solve humanity’s problems. But, as the smoldering wound of Notre Dame’s interior shows, it still only takes a freak accident — a stray spark — to remind us that our ability to predict and control our destinies is nothing more than human folly.

Accidents happen. Nature continues to mutate in unpredictable ways. But when we happen upon something as magical as the experience of entering Notre Dame, the world outside pales in comparison. Our senses are put on high alert. Every element of that structure was clearly orchestrated to an awe-inspiring degree. Like all great art, Notre Dame, even in its damaged state, stands as an enduring testament of the human desire to communicate something wondrous to someone else, even if that something cannot be conveyed by words.

Notre Dame — the cathedral and all that it houses — reminds us of the heights of which human excellence is capable. We need this. Life is hard; the unknown lurks around every corner. But art, like the return of spring, inspires hope, and with that the means to endure all that life throws our way, even the tragedy of Notre Dame in flames.

Mary Sherman is an artist, a former art critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. She is now an adjunct professor of studio art at Boston College and Northeastern University.