A gaping hole left by Notre Dame’s fallen spire was still burning and sparks were spilling down from the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings more than 5 hours a fire broke out near the Top of the Gothic landmark in Paris.
An Associated Press reporter entered the cathedral late Monday while French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting Notre Dame, getting a glimpse of the immense damage the blaze caused.
No lights were on, but the simmering red hole from the fallen spire provided illumination. Streams of sparks rained from the gap onto the floor where the church choir usually stands during services.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said earlier that most artworks and religious relics were removed from Notre Dame as firefighters worked to control the blaze.
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.”
A huge fire engulfed the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the Paris Monday, toppling its spire and sending thick plumes of smoke high into the sky as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.
A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman told French media. The 12th-Century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions.
The cause of the catastrophic blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a $6.8-M renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. Paris police said there were no reported deaths.
Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Sights of the flames stopped passers-by in their tracks along the Seine River that passes beneath the cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.
French historian Camille Pascal said the fire was destroying “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.”
“We can be only horrified by what we see”, Pascal said.
Reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the center of Paris.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the “terrible fire.” Mayor 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.
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