Notre Dame Ablaze: 'Terrible Fire' Engulfs Cathedral In Paris As Iconic Spire Collapses

Officials fear “colossal damages”.

A huge fire is ripping through Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris as its iconic spire collapsed and appeared to be spreading to its famous bell tower.

Smoke could be seen billowing for miles around out from the top of the medieval cathedral as flames leapt out besides its two bell towers on Monday evening.

Notre Dame, built in the 12th century and one of Europe’s most famous landmarks, was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding and bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Firefighters told a local news outlet that the blaze began in the cathedral’s attic.

A major operation was under way to bring the fire under control though it showed no sign of abating as the area was cleared of people.

A cathedral spokesman indicated the entire wooden interior was burning and likely to be destroyed.

The emergency services were trying to salvage the artwork stored in the building as the fire spread to one of Notre Dame’s famous rectangular towers.

Several online videos captured the monument’s towering spire collapsing as onlookers gasped from down below.

“A terrible fire is underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said at the early stages of the blaze. Her deputy later said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation.

“Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”

Getty Editorial

Ashley Huntington, 21, an American university student studying in Paris, was among the eye-witnesses.

She said: “Our class ran what was supposed to be 30 minutes walking but we probably got here in 20 running.

“You could just get close and see the smoke. The smoke is everywhere in the sky. It seems like more pieces of the scaffolding are currently falling.”

She added: “It just looks like it’s out of control. I’ve never seen a fire in real life but the flames keep getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think it’s getting better at all.

“The police right now are definitely making sure the public is cleared away. We keep getting pushed further and further away.”

Pierre Tremblay, a video journalist for Le HuffPost, reported: “At the beginning, police would let journalists go close but the the perimeter got bigger because ashes where falling from the sky.

“Hundreds of people were crying in silence, the atmosphere was the same as after a terror attack. A lot of tourists but more Parisians than usual in this neighboorhood.”

The left bell tower is on fire.

— Shiv Malik (@shivmalik) April 15, 2019

Firefighters cleared the area around Notre Dame, which sits on an island in the River Seine and marks the very centre of Paris. Buildings around were evacuated.

“Everything is collapsing,” a police officer near the scene said as the entire roof of the cathedral continued to burn.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, told the Press Association: “The shock at the outbreak of this fire is spreading around the world.

“It is an iconic building visited by millions, but more importantly it is a symbol of faith which is at the heart of Europe.

“We therefore all pray that the fire is extinguished quickly and with a shared effort, the building made good.”


One of the oldest and most recognisable buildings in Paris, work began on Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in 1163.

The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to “Our Lady of Paris”.

Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year - more than 30,000 every day on average - according to its official website, and it is believed to be the most visited structure in the French capital.

The first stone of the original structure was laid in front of Pope Alexander III after the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, proposed the cathedral after his election in 1160.

It grew iconic in popular culture through several artistic works, including the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was published in 1831 and adapted by Disney in 1996.

The spire, which collapsed during the devastating fire, has undergone several changes in the building’s history.

The 13th century spire was dismantled during the French Revolution and later rebuilt in the 1860s.

The cathedral’s stained glass rose windows are also some of its most architecturally significant features.

The first, and smallest, on the west facade, was finished in around 1225 and celebrated for the way the glass seemingly upheld the stonework around it. That window was among several parts of the cathedral included in restoration works between 1844 and 1867.

A brass plate set in stone outside the building also marks “Point Zero” in Paris, the centre of the city. It is the point in France from where all distances to Paris are measured.

A message engraved around the stone reads: “Point zero des routes de France”.

The cathedral also houses a beehive over the sacristy, which was added in spring 2013.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.


What's Hot