The Notre Dame in Paris, France went up in flames on Monday afternoon, which had recently undergone renovation work to preserve the historic, 850-year-old Gothic cathedral. The cause of the fire is yet unknown, however and according to the BBC, it may be linked to the renovation efforts to save the crumbling structure after an urgent appeal from Catholic Church last year. Many sections of the cathedral had been under scaffolding, although the bronze statues were thankfully removed last week for preservation work.
The area surrounding the building, which attracts millions of visitors each year, has been cleared as emergency personnel are fighting to get the blaze under control. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is urging bystanders at the scene to respect the boundaries set up by fire crews in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
As the flames grew to as many as three stories high, smoke could be seen billowing for miles around which many witnesses have captured in heartbreaking photos and video on social media.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez has posted footage of the spire falling.
Construction began on the cathedral in 1163 — completed in 1345 — and it’s considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture due to innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress and spectacular rose-colored windows. The elaborate sculptural decoration found throughout the cathedral completely sets it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.