(RNS) — A massive fire engulfed the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris Monday evening (April 15), destroying the entire wooden frame.
Social media images showed smoke and flames billowing from the top of the cathedral, behind its iconic entryway with the famous rose window.
The cause was not known.
Early reports indicated the spire and possibly the entire roof had collapsed. Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media the entire wooden interior of the 12th-century landmark was likely destroyed: ‘Nothing will remain from the frame.’
The medieval cathedral on the Île de la Cité may be one of the most famous churches in the world and one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It attracts up to 12 million visitors a year.
But it was also beginning to crumble. Last year leaders issued an urgent call for funding to restore it. And it appeared to be undergoing renovation work, with cranes lifting statues from the spire last week, the New York Times reported.
The cathedral was begun in 1163 and completed by 1260. It still serves as a Catholic Church and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Christian Alain Aupetit.
“Noble in architecture and art, it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God,’ the president of U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the Archbishop and the people of Paris, and we pray for all the people of France, entrusting all to the prayers and intercession of the Mother of God, especially the firefighters battling the fire.”
Reports on Twitter suggested the roof had collapsed.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) April 15, 2019
The fire alarm went off around 6:30 p.m., local time. Firefighters were at the scene.
This is not the first time the church has suffered damage. Its religious imagery were sacked during the French Revolution, and it has undergone numerous renovations.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation Monday evening because of the blaze, USA Today reported.
President Trump responded on Twitter:
So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019