The spire of Paris’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral has collapsed after a massive blaze broke out at the cathedral earlier this evening.
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.
A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after.
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.’
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.