Notre Dame fire: Smoke billows out of historic cathedral in Paris 

Spire of Paris’s 850-year-old Notre Dame cathedral COLLAPSES as fire ravages historic building with flames erupting through the roof – with Macron lamenting seeing ‘part of us burn’

  • Officials in Paris said a large operation had been launched in an attempt to bring the raging fire under control 
  • Pictures from around the city posted on social media showed flames licking up Notre Dame’s famous spire 
  • The fire was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) on Monday and the building was evacuated soon afterwards 
  • Authorities say there were no deaths from the fire although declined to comment on the number of injuries 

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The spire and part of the roof of Paris’s famous Notre Dame cathedral has collapsed after a massive blaze broke out at the cathedral earlier this evening. 

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 Andre Finot 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.

Pictures posted on social media showed enormous plumes of smoke billowing into the city’s skyline and flames engulfing large sections of the historic building as firefighters struggled to contain the inferno. 

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the fire broke out in the attic of the monument before spreading across the roof. 

Officials in Paris said the fire could be linked to restoration works as the peak of the church is currently undergoing a 6 million-euro ($ 6.8 million) renovation project. 

One of the turrets on the cathedral before it collapsed

The turret after it collapsed

One of the turrets on the cathedral before it collapsed (left) at around 7.00pm this evening and afterwards at around 7.30pm

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after. 

Police said no deaths have been reported although officials did not comment on injuries. 

French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.

Macron tweeted shortly after the blaze: ‘Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.’

Macron’s pre-recorded speech was set to be aired Monday evening, to lay out his long-awaited answers to the yellow vest crisis that has rocked the country since last November.

Cathedral spokesman Andre Finot told Le Monde: ‘Everything is burning. The frame – which dates to the 19th century on one side and the 13th century on the other – there will be nothing left.

‘We will have to wait and see whether the vault, which protects the Cathedral, will be touched by the fire on not.’ 

The fire spread rapidly across the roof-line of the cathedral leaving one of the spires and another section of the roof engulfed in flames

The fire spread rapidly across the roof-line of the cathedral leaving one of the spires and another section of the roof engulfed in flames

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after the fire broke out that he was sad to see 'a part of us burn' and sent his sympathies to people across France

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after the fire broke out that he was sad to see ‘a part of us burn’ and sent his sympathies to people across France

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says firefighters are trying to contain the ‘terrible fire’ and urged residents of the French capital to stay away from the security perimeter around the Gothic-style church. The mayor says city officials are in touch with Roman Catholic diocese in Paris.   

While deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV the thousand-year-old building had suffered ‘colossal damage’ already.

He added: ‘A special mission has been launched to attempt to save all the works of art we can.’

He said the authorities were giving highest priority to securing the area and protecting tourists and residents from the risk of a collapse.’

The cathedral is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe, and one of the most visited buildings in the world.

Notre Dame – which means ‘Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.

It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, and is visited by some 12million people every year and is the most visited historic monument in Europe.

The cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions. 

A spokesperson for the cathedral told Le Monde that the entire frame of the historic cathedral's roof (pictured here before the blaze) had caught fire

A spokesperson for the cathedral told Le Monde that the entire frame of the historic cathedral’s roof (pictured here before the blaze) had caught fire

Officials say the blaze could be linked to renovation works as the spire has been undergoing a $  6.8million renovation this year

Officials say the blaze could be linked to renovation works as the spire has been undergoing a $ 6.8million renovation this year

The flames engulfed areas of scaffolding linked to the renovation works as crowds watched the unfolding disaster from a nearby bridge

The flames engulfed areas of scaffolding linked to the renovation works as crowds watched the unfolding disaster from a nearby bridge

The fire on Monday

The fire could be seen from miles around

The blaze could be seen from across Paris on Monday night as officials in the city said a major operation was in place to put it out

Earlier on Monday evening small amounts of smoke were spotted above the landmark as the fire took hold

Earlier on Monday evening small amounts of smoke were spotted above the landmark as the fire took hold

Enormous plumes of smoke were seen rising from the Cathedral as horrified onlookers gathered in a nearby square

Earlier on Monday evening small amounts of smoke were spotted above the landmark as the fire took hold

Pictures from across Paris showed the historic cathedral ablaze on Friday evening after the fire reportedly broke out in the building's attic

Earlier on Monday evening small amounts of smoke were spotted above the landmark as the fire took hold

Our Lady of Paris: The 850-year-old cathedral that survived being sacked in the revolution to become Europe’s most-visited historical monument

Whether intrigued by tales of Quasimodo or on a pilgrimage to see one of the thorns said to have rested on Jesus’ head on the Cross, more than 13 million people each year flock to see Europe’s most popular historic monument.

The 12th Century Catholic cathedral is a masterpiece of French Gothic design, with a cavernous vault and some of the largest rose windows on the Continent. 

It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Paris and contains the cathedra (bishop’s throne) – a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority in the Catholic Church. 

The two iconic towers of the cathedral are sixty-nine meters high, and were the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. 

The north tower, which visitors can climb up, has a stairway of 387 steps that allow tourists to look over a see a collection of paintings and sculptures created throughout the ages of the cathedral’s existence.  

Building work was completed in 1260 although it is believed that the first stone was laid in front of Pope Alexander III in 1163. 

Many modifications have been made throughout the centuries and the cathedral has been damaged a number of times due to the French Revolution and the liberation of Paris in 1944. 

During the French Revolution in the 1790s the cathedral was desecrated and much of its religious iconography was destroyed.

In 1793 the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason and the Cult of Supreme Being – atheistic alternatives to Catholicism during the revolution. 

Eventually the cathedral became used as a storage facility for food and other non-religious purposes. 

Twenty-eight statues of biblical kings were destroyed and all other large statues on the facade – apart from one of the Virgin Mary – were destroyed. 

The great bells of the cathedral only narrowly missed being melted down. 

By July 1801, the new ruler Napoleon Bonaparte had signed an agreement to give the cathedral back to the Catholic Church.  

It wasn’t until the publication of Victor Hugo’s novel – The Hunchback of Notre Dame – in 1831 that public interest in the building resurfaced and repair works began. 

A major restoration project was launched in 1845 and took 25 years to be completed. 

Architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc won the commission. 

By 1944 the cathedral was to be damaged again and during the liberation of Paris, stray bullets caused minor damage to the medieval stained glass. 

This would be updated with modern designs. 

In 1963 France’s Culture Minister, André Malraux, ordered the cleaning of the facade of the cathedral, where 800 years worth of soot and grime were removed. 

Notre Dame has a crypt, called the Crypte archéologique de l’île de la Cité, where old architectural ruins are stored. They span from the times of the earliest settlement in Paris to present day. 

The cathedral has 10 bells, the heaviest bell – known as the boudon and weighing 13 tonnes – is called Emmanuel and has been rung to mark many historical events throughout time. 

At the end of the First and Second World Wars the bell was rung to mark the end of the conflicts. 

It is also rung to signify poignant events such as French heads of state dying or following horrific events such as the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.  

The three stained glass rose windows are the most famous features of the cathedral. They were created in the Gothic style between 1225 and 1270. 

While most of the original glass is long gone, some remains in the south rose which dates back to the last quarter of the 12th century. 

The rest of the windows were restored in the 18th century. 

The south rose is made up of 94 medallions which are arranged in four concentric circles. 

They portray scenes from the life of Christ and those who knew him – with the inner circle showing the 12 apostles in it 12 medallions. 

During the French Revolution rioters set fire to the residence of the archbishop, which was around the side of the cathedral, and the south rose was damaged. 

One of the cathedral’s first organs was built in 1403 by Friedrich Schambantz but was replaced in the 18th century before being remade using the pipe work from former instruments.

Great buildings ravaged by fire: From Windsor Castle to York Minster

The Windsor Castle fire of November 1992 

A fire broke out at Windsor Castle on November 20, 1992, which caused extensive damage to the royal residence.

The Berkshire blaze started at 11am in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel after a faulty spotlight ignited a curtain next to the altar.

Within minutes the blaze had spread to St George’s Hall next door, and the fire would go on to destroy 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms.

Three hours after the blaze was first spotted 225 firemen from seven counties were battling the fire, using 36 pumps to discharge 1.5million gallons of water at the inferno’s peak.

The fire break at the other end of St George’s Hall remained unbreached, so the Royal Library was fortunately left undamaged.

A fire broke out at Windsor Castle on November 20, 1992, which caused extensive damage to the royal residence

A fire broke out at Windsor Castle on November 20, 1992, which caused extensive damage to the royal residence

Staff worked to remove works of art from the Royal Collection from the path of the fire.

According to the Royal Collection Trust: ‘The Castle’s Quadrangle was full of some of the finest examples of French 18th-century furniture, paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Gainsborough, Sèvres porcelain and other treasures of the Collection.

‘Amazingly, only two works of art were lost in the fire – a rosewood sideboard and a very large painting by Sir William Beechey that couldn’t be taken down from the wall in time. Luckily works of art had already been removed from many rooms in advance of rewiring work.’

The Duke of York had said he he heard the fire alarm and roughly two or three minutes later he saw the smoke after leaving the room he was in, according to contemporary reports.

Prince Andrew had joined a group removing valuable works of art from the castle to save them from destruction.

The York Minster fire of 1984 

Pictured: Aftermath of the York Minster fire of July 9, 1984

Pictured: Aftermath of the York Minster fire of July 9, 1984

Early in the morning of July 9, 1984, York Minster’s south transept was set ablaze, destroying the roof and causing £2.25million worth of damage.

More than 100 firefighters confronted the church fire, taking two hours to bring it to heel.

The cause of the fire is believed to have been a lightning bolt that struck the cathedral shortly after midnight. 

The blaze seriously damaged the cathedral’s stonework, along with its famous Rose Window, and firefighters were left tackling embers on the floor after the roof collapsed at 4am.

Minster staff and clergy busied themselves saving as many artefacts as possible before the fire was finally brought under control at around 5.24am. 

An investigation ruled out an electrical or gas fault, and arson was discounted due to roof’s inaccessibility. Tests had found that the blaze was ‘almost certainly’ caused by a lightning strike but much of the evidence was destroyed in the fire.

The building was restored in 1988 after masonry teams re-carved stonework above the building’s rose window and arches.

It was reported that the rose window, designed to celebrate the marriage of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, reached a temperature of 842F during the incident, cracking the glass in several places before it was restored. 

It was not the first time the building had caught ablaze.

In the early hours of February 1, 1829, Jonathan Martin set the building on fire, melting the lead from the roof and cracking the building’s limestone pillars.

Late that afternoon the fire started dying out after roughly 230 feet of choir roof had collapsed.

Non-conformist Martin, a former sailor from Northumberland, did not believe in formal liturgy, had published pamphlets condemning the clergy as ‘vipers of Hell’.

He was charged with setting the building on fire, but was found not guilty due to insanity, and died in a London asylum in 1838.

Pictured: The roof of the South Transept of York Minster ablaze at the height of the fire. Minster staff and clergy busied themselves saving as many artefacts as possible before the fire was finally brought under control at around 5.24am

Pictured: The roof of the South Transept of York Minster ablaze at the height of the fire. Minster staff and clergy busied themselves saving as many artefacts as possible before the fire was finally brought under control at around 5.24am

The Great Fire of London 

St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured now) caught fire, with the lead roof melting and pouring into the street 'like a river' as the building collapsed

St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured now) caught fire, with the lead roof melting and pouring into the street ‘like a river’ as the building collapsed

On September 2, 1666, a fire broke out Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane, close to London Bridge. The summer of 1666 had been unusually hot, and the city had not seen rain for several weeks, leaving wooden houses and buildings tinder dry.

Once the fire had taken hold, 300 houses quickly collapsed and strong east winds fanned the flames from house to house, sweeping the blaze through London’s winding narrow lanes, with houses positioned close together.

In an attempt to flee the fire by boat, Londoners poured down to the River Thames and the city was overtaken by chaos.

There was no fire brigade in London at the time, so residents themselves had to fight the fire with the help of local soldiers.

They used buckets of water, water squirts and fire hooks, pulling down houses with hooks to make gaps or ‘fire breaks’, but the wind helped fan the fire across the created gaps.

King Charles II had ordered that houses in the path of the fire should be pulled down – but the fire outstripped the hooked poles that were used to try and achieve this.

By September 4 half of London had been overtaken by the blaze, and King Charles himself joined firefighters, handing them buckets of water in a desperate attempt to bring the blaze under control.

Gunpowder was deployed to blow up houses that lay in the path’s fire, but the sound of explosions triggered rumours of a French invasion, heightening the city’s panic.

St Paul’s Cathedral caught fire, with the lead roof melting and pouring into the street ‘like a river’ as the cathedral collapsed.

The fire was eventually brought under control and extinguished by September 6, leaving just one fifth of London untouched.

Almost every civic building had been destroyed, along with 13,000 private homes, 87 parish churches, The Royal Exchange, and Guildhall.

Roughly 350,000 people lived in London just before the Great Fire, making the city one of the largest in Europe.

A monument was erected in Pudding Lane, where the blaze broke out.

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