ROME (Crux) – A massive fire engulfed Notre Dame, Paris’ famed cathedral, Monday evening Paris time, with firefighters struggling to control the flames and the mayor of the city going to Twitter to ask people to stay away from the area.
Mayor Ann Hidalgo also said that the city was working on the spot “in close connection” with the archdiocese of Paris. A dramatic video, live-streamed on social media, showed the cathedral’s main spire collapse from the blaze.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, but local media are citing police sources calling it an accident, “potentially linked” to the renovation works.
The cathedral, known among many things for being the stage for Victor Hugo’s famous novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was undergoing a nearly $7 million renovation project, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works. The last time the building had gone through a major overhaul was between 1844 and 1864, partially thanks to Hugo’s novel, that had depicted its decay.
Images posted on social media showed flames and huge clouds of smoke rising above the roof of the gothic cathedral, Europe’s most visited historic monument.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the fire, saying it was “horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”
Notre Dame is a working parish church, in addition to being one of the most iconic sights on the city’s skyline. An estimated 12 million people visit the cathedral every year, making it the most-visited monument in the city of Paris.
This is story is being updated.