Within the span of a few hours Monday evening, parts of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris that had survived centuries of wars and revolutions caved to a massive fire.
First the iconic spire collapsed, then the roof. Soon, the entire wooden frame of the historic, 850-year-old landmark went up in flames as people in central Paris watched in horror. Many filmed the blaze on their cellphones as the sky grew dark. Some sang or knelt in prayer.
A few precious relics — like an artwork that’s believed to contain a thorn from a crown Jesus Christ once wore — were reportedly salvaged. Late Monday, as the fire decreased in intensity, France’s interior secretary cautiously announced the structure of the cathedral appeared to be intact, according to Le Monde.
The fire came just days before Easter Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian faith.
“We are going to lose her. Everything is up in flames,” one onlooker, Angelique de Almeida, told the New York Times. “We lose this. We lose Paris. It is apocalyptic. And this is the Holy Week.”
The cathedral’s roof was covered in scaffolding because the structure was undergoing $6.8 million worth of much-needed reservations. Officials said the blaze could be related to that construction.
Firefighters were still fighting the flames into the night. Here are some photos of the destruction:
Cover image: Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)