The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris continued to burn into the night Monday, but after a day of fighting the blaze, the smoke began to thin, offering hope that parts of the iconic Gothic structure could be salvaged. The city fire chief announced that the main structure of the church—the two landmark rectangular towers—have been saved, but that two-thirds of the roof along with the spire had been destroyed. The preliminary assessments of the cause of the fire continue to point towards this being an accident associated with renovations being made to the structure. There have been reports of some artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns and the Tunic of St Louis, being recovered from the blaze, but the fate of numerous priceless pieces remains unclear.
In a speech outside the stricken cathedral Monday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron said “the worst has been avoided.” Macron also pledged to rebuild Notre Dame. “Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we’ve lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives,” Macron said. “It’s the story of our books, our paintings. It’s the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens.”
The emotional address capped an emotional day in the capital city after smoke began to creep out from the roof of the iconic structure around 6.:30 p.m.
Videos, like this one by the French journalist Thomas Vampouille, showed the massive blaze extending across almost the entire roof of the building:
A major operation by the fire department was quickly underway, and the area around the cathedral was cleared. The Paris fire department said the only known injury so far was to a fire fighter.
Throughout the afternoon, authorities attributed the fire to ongoing renovation work:
The cathedral’s famous spire collapsed.
While there continues to be no evidence of foul play here, there have been a spate of attacks against Catholic churches across France in recent weeks, including one instance of arson at the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris in March.
The cathedral, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, is currently undergoing a $12.4 million renovation to repair “damage inflicted by time, pollution and the weather.”
This post has been updated with breaking news.