A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations on Monday, 15 April, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.

The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. 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.

Spire of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral Collapses as Fire Breaks Out

The cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead.

Prosecutors opened an investigation as Paris police said there were no reported deaths. Some 400 firefighters were battling the blaze well into the night.

Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the church, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.

Parisians have gathered to say prayers and sing hymns In front of the nearby Saint Julien Les Pauvres church as the massive blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral burns only a few hundred meters away.

Flames and smoke rose in the sky behind the singers. A couple hundred people kneeling in prayer at the center of a larger group, who are standing around the edge and joining in the hymns between the prayers.

A group of Americans from Maine had just finished visiting Notre Dame Cathedral and were in a nearby park when they heard it was on fire.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, its architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.

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