Parisians raised their voices in song Monday night outside Notre Dame Cathedral as firefighters battled a massive blaze threatening one of France’s most revered historic sites.
The fire burned for several hours Monday, causing the collapse of the cathedral’s iconic spire and the destruction of its roof structure, which dated back to the 13th century.
Consumed by flames, the spire leaned to one side and fell onto the burning roof as horrified onlookers watched.
By late Monday night, the fire had weakened and the cathedral’s two towers were safe, said Laurent Nunez, secretary to the interior minister.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for saving the cathedral’s iconic facade and towers. “Thanks to their bravery, the worst has been avoided.”
Yet he lamented the damage already done to “the cathedral of all French people,” and pledged to launch an international fundraising campaign to rebuild the cathedral.
Ave Maria pic.twitter.com/lb6Y5XV05a
— Ignacio Gil (@Inaki_Gil) April 15, 2019
“Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations,” he said.
For much of the day, flames and thick plumes of smoke billowed from the cathedral, including the bell tower and the spire. Rescue workers rushed to evacuate artworks.
“This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel.”
It was not immediately known what caused the fire. The cathedral is surrounded by scaffolding amid construction work. Paris Fire Brigade Commander General Jean-Claude Gallet said the initial call to emergency services notified authorities of a fire in the attic of the cathedral.
About 400 firefighters were mobilized to deal with the blaze, the French Interior Ministry said.
One firefighter was seriously injured, Gallet said.