Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed by fire

Flames and smoke billow from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this morning (CNS/Charles Platiau, Reuters)

A catastrophic fire has engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world. Source: ABC News.

The fire has spread to one of the church’s landmark rectangular towers, according to an Associated Press reporter who saw flames blazing behind an oblong stained-glass window in the tower.

Paris Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet said it was unclear if city firefighters would be able to keep the fire from spreading to the cathedral’s second tower and belfry, causing more destruction.

A French Interior Ministry official told media firefighters might not be able to save the cathedral.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which drew crowds of people to nearby squares as a huge plume of smoke wafted across the city and ash fell over a large area.

Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot said the blaze was likely to bring the entire wooden frame of the cathedral down, and the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.

“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” he told French media.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages, and one of the most beloved structures in the world.

Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine River, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the Crown of Thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.

Speaking to BFMTV, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said first responders were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.

The cathedral, which is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, attracts millions of tourists every year.

Notre Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

The Vatican said it was praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation”.

“The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world,” it said in a statement.

FULL STORY

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris engulfed by devastating fire (ABC News

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