Around the world, religious and government leaders are mourning the almost total destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral this evening. A massive fire at the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris broke out Monday, April 15.
The 856-year-old house of worship, on of the most iconic structures in the entire world, caught fire with the blaze quickly tearing through the huge structure. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but it has already caused devastating damage, with the spire of the cathedral collapsing.
French President Emmanuel Macron has canceled a planned speech to the nation as a result of the fire and tweeted: “Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of all of us burn,” according to a translation from Reuters.
The fire chief in Paris says it’s unclear if city firefighters will be able to keep a fire at Notre Dame from spreading and causing more destruction.
Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet said outside the iconic cathedral as his crews battled the blaze from both the exterior and interior: “We are not sure we are capable of stopping the spreading” to Notre Dame’s second tower and belfry.
Most of the cathedral has been destroyed with only the two main towers seemingly untouched by the blaze.
The Vatican has issued a statement about the “terrible fire” that has “devastated” Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The Vatican said: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
The cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. Prosecutors opened an investigation as Paris police said there were no reported deaths. Some 400 firefighters were battling the blaze well into the night.
The Paris prosecutors’ office said investigators are treating the blaze as an accident for now. The prosecutors’ office said late Monday they have ruled out arson in Monday’s fire, including possible terror-related motives for starting the blaze.
Prosecutors say Paris police will conduct an investigation into “involuntary destruction caused by fire.”
Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the cathedral, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.
Eyewitness John Dickas told ABC News it is heartbreaking for bystanders who are watching the efforts to fight the blaze.
“For me, the most heartbreaking moment was when I saw – about 20 minutes after I started watching the fire – I saw the ladders go up and the hoses start spraying,” he said. “It was just heartbreaking to watch. The ladders were not tall enough. The hoses were not strong enough. This was, just clearly, a fire beyond the capacity of the crews’ capability. I mean, they were clearly doing everything they could. It was just so much bigger and so much more out of control than they had the resources to deal with.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the “terrible fire.” Hidalgo said in a Twitter message that Paris firefighters are still trying to limit the fire and urged Paris citizens to respect the security perimeter that has been set around the cathedral.
In Washington, Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris” and suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to put it out.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”
Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.
Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.
The cathedral was immortalized in Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” published in 1831, and has long been a subject of fascination in popular culture as well as the traditional art world.
French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the blaze marked “the destruction of invaluable heritage.”
“It’s been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris”, Pascal said. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”
He added: “We can be only horrified by what we see.”