Fire breaks out at historic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

Spire of Paris’s 850-year-old Notre Dame cathedral collapses as ‘terrible’ fire ravages the historic building with flames erupting through the roof sending huge plume of smoke sweeping across the city

  • Officials in Paris said a large operation had been launched in an attempt to bring the raging fire under control 
  • Pictures from around the city posted on social media showed flames licking up Notre Dame’s famous spire 
  • The fire was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) on Monday and the building was evacuated soon afterwards 

The spire of Paris’s famous Notre Dame cathedral has collapsed after a massive blaze broke out at the cathedral 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. 

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the fire broke out in the attic of the monument before spreading across the roof. 

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after. 

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.

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.

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.

The fire spread rapidly across the roof-line of the cathedral leaving one of the spires and another section of the roof engulfed in flames

Officials say the blaze could be linked to renovation works as the spire has been undergoing a $6.8million renovation this year

The flames engulfed areas of scaffolding linked to the renovation works as crowds watched the unfolding disaster from a nearby bridge

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    The blaze could be seen from across Paris on Monday night as officials in the city said a major operation was in place to put it out

    How the Notre Dame blaze broke out: Devastating pictures show the inferno spreading through the cathedral

    Earlier on Monday evening small amounts of smoke were spotted above the landmark as the fire took hold

    Enormous plumes of smoke were seen rising from the Cathedral as horrified onlookers gathered in a nearby square

    The Catholic cathedral, whose title translates to ‘Our Lady’, is Paris’s most-visited monument and sees 12million visitors every year.

    It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and contains the cathedra (bishop’s throne) – a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority in the Catholic Church. 

    The two iconic towers of the cathedral are sixty-nine meters high, and were the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. 

    The north tower, which visitors can climb up, has a stairway of 387 steps that allow tourists to look over a see a collection of paintings and sculptures created throughout the ages of the cathedral’s existence.  

    Building work was completed in 1260 although it is believed that the first stone was laid in front of Pope Alexander III in 1163. 

    Many modifications have been made throughout the centuries and the cathedral has been damaged a number of times due to the French Revolution and the liberation of Paris in 1944. 

    During the French Revolution in the 1790s the cathedral was desecrated and much of its religious iconography was destroyed.

    In 1793 the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason and the Cult of Supreme Being – atheistic alternatives to Catholicism during the revolution. 

    Eventually the cathedral became used as a storage facility for food and other non-religious purposes. 

    Twenty-eight statues of biblical kings were destroyed and all other large statues on the facade – apart from one of the Virgin Mary – were destroyed. 

    The great bells of the cathedral only narrowly missed being melted down. 

    By July 1801, the new ruler Napoleon Bonaparte had signed an agreement to give the cathedral back to the Catholic Church.  

    It wasn’t until the publication of Victor Hugo’s novel – The Hunchback of Notre Dame – in 1831 that public interest in the building resurfaced and repair works began. 

    A major restoration project was launched in 1845 and took 25 years to be completed. 

    Architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc won the commission. 

    By 1944 the cathedral was to be damaged again and during the liberation of Paris, stray bullets caused minor damage to the medieval stained glass. 

    This would be updated with modern designs. 

    In 1963 France’s Culture Minister, André Malraux, ordered the cleaning of the facade of the cathedral, where 800 years worth of soot and grime were removed. 

    Notre Dame has a crypt, called the Crypte archéologique de l’île de la Cité, where old architectural ruins are stored. They span from the times of the earliest settlement in Paris to present day. 

    The three stained glass rose windows are the most famous features of the cathedral. The three roses were created between 1225 and 1270. 

    The Windsor Castle fire of November 1992 

    A fire broke out at Windsor Castle on November 20, 1992, which caused extensive damage to the royal residence.

    The Berkshire blaze started at 11am in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel after a faulty spotlight ignited a curtain next to the altar.

    Within minutes the blaze had spread to St George’s Hall next door, and the fire would go on to destroy 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms.

    Three hours after the blaze was first spotted 225 firemen from seven counties were battling the fire, using 36 pumps to discharge 1.5million gallons of water at the inferno’s peak.

    The fire break at the other end of St George’s Hall remained unbreached, so the Royal Library was fortunately left undamaged.

    A fire broke out at Windsor Castle on November 20, 1992, which caused extensive damage to the royal residence

    Staff worked to remove works of art from the Royal Collection from the path of the fire.

    According to the Royal Collection Trust: ‘The Castle’s Quadrangle was full of some of the finest examples of French 18th-century furniture, paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Gainsborough, Sèvres porcelain and other treasures of the Collection.

    ‘Amazingly, only two works of art were lost in the fire – a rosewood sideboard and a very large painting by Sir William Beechey that couldn’t be taken down from the wall in time. Luckily works of art had already been removed from many rooms in advance of rewiring work.’

    The Duke of York had said he he heard the fire alarm and roughly two or three minutes later he saw the smoke after leaving the room he was in, according to contemporary reports.

    Prince Andrew had joined a group removing valuable works of art from the castle to save them from destruction.

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