Devastating aftermath of Notre Dame inferno leaves world in mourning 

A catastrophic fire at Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral has left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic 'epicentre' this morning as French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the treasured landmark.

Hundreds of heroic firefighters tackled the blaze through the night, battling to stop its complete destruction after the iconic spire was seen crashing to the ground before crowds of horrified Parisians yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, teams raced to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, which housed priceless artefacts and relics of huge religious and international significance.

The blaze, which broke out as the last crowds of tourists ended visits at around 7pm local time, was finally declared to be 'completely under control' nearly nine hours later.

However, it is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous edifice.

Attention is beginning to turn to what may have caused the landmark, part of which was being restored, to fall victim to such a disaster.

The Paris prosecutors' office said police will carry out an investigation into 'involuntary destruction caused by fire', indicating authorities are currently treating the blaze as a tragic accident, and not arson or terrorism. 

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A catastrophic fire at Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral (shown this morning) has left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic 'epicentre' this morning as French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the treasured landmark

A catastrophic fire at Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral (shown this morning) has left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic 'epicentre' this morning as French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the treasured landmark

Firefighters continue to douse Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris with water this morning following a devastating fire that destroyed its roof last night

Firefighters continue to douse Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris with water this morning following a devastating fire that destroyed its roof last night 

Firefighters at the scene of the fire this morning. It is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous edifice

Firefighters at the scene of the fire this morning. It is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous edifice

As darkness fell on Paris on Monday evening the ruined cathedral was illuminated by the flames still burning in the roof as firefighters battled on against the inferno

As darkness fell on Paris on Monday evening the ruined cathedral was illuminated by the flames still burning in the roof as firefighters battled on against the inferno

A shard of the cathedral's spire plummets through the air as it collapsed earlier after the fire burned through its foundations

A shard of the cathedral's spire plummets through the air as it collapsed earlier after the fire burned through its foundations

A view from inside the cathedral shows flames in the roof as firefighters douse it from below with hoses. A shocked firefighter looks back at the camera as the blaze is seen raging through a hole in the roof

A view from inside the cathedral shows flames in the roof as firefighters douse it from below with hoses. A shocked firefighter looks back at the camera as the blaze is seen raging through a hole in the roof

A spokesperson for the cathedral told Le Monde that the entire frame of the historic cathedral's roof (pictured here before the blaze) had caught fire

A spokesperson for the cathedral told Le Monde that the entire frame of the historic cathedral's roof (pictured here before the blaze) had caught fire

Visiting the scene on Monday night, French president Emmanuel Macron said a national subscription would be launched to rebuild the national monument.

It was reported by AFP that billionaire French mogul Francois-Henri Pinault had pledged 100 million euros (£86 million) towards the effort.

The blaze broke out just before 7pm local time in a roof area undergoing around £6m of renovations. The fire service said last night they believed it was an accident, but investigations were continuing.

More than 400 firefighters battled the flames, which quickly spread along the roof structure, causing burning timbers to collapse onto the ceiling of the vault below. Some of that collapsed into the aisle however the cathedral's Twitter account declared the damage inside was less than feared, in a message ending 'Allelujah'.

At around 3am local time, Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said: 'We can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved as well as the two towers.'

And a brigade spokesman added: 'We will continue to watch over any residual pockets of fire and cool down the areas that are still red-hot, like the wooden beam framework.'

One fireman was severely injured tackling the blaze, but no fatalities were reported. The building – and the entire Ile de la Cite island it occupies in the centre of the French capital – were successfully evacuated as the seriousness of the fire became clear.

As well as the historic stricture, the cathedral was home to dozens of priceless artefacts, including the reputed Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion.

A human chain of emergency service workers carried this and many other items to safety.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said: 'Thank you to the [Paris fire brigade], policemen and the municipal agents who have made this evening a tremendous human chain to save the works of Notre Dame. The Crown of Thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.'

Priceless works that couldn't be moved fared less well. Firefighters told how the building's stained-glass rose windows, high on the north, west and south faces of the cathedral, 'exploded' in the heat of the inferno.

'They exploded because of the heat of the blaze,' said one, referring to the Rosette West, which was created in 1225, the Rosette North and the Rossette South, both from 1250.

An aerial view of the cathedral taken from a police drone showed the famous structure completely stripped of its roof and still ablaze on the inside

An aerial view of the cathedral taken from a police drone showed the famous structure completely stripped of its roof and still ablaze on the inside

Drone footage from the French Interior Ministry showed the devastation to the cathedral's centuries-old timber roof

Drone footage from the French Interior Ministry showed the devastation to the cathedral's centuries-old timber roof

Speaking with tears in his eyes on the steps of the cathedral, Macron vowed to rebuild Notre Dame with the help of the international community

Speaking with tears in his eyes on the steps of the cathedral, Macron vowed to rebuild Notre Dame with the help of the international community

Teams of firefighters from across the city were called in to try and put out the fire after it spread quickly through the cathedral on Monday evening

Teams of firefighters from across the city were called in to try and put out the fire after it spread quickly through the cathedral on Monday evening

Much of the top of the structure fell victim to the inferno including the famous spire and part of the dome at the back of the church

Much of the top of the structure fell victim to the inferno including the famous spire and part of the dome at the back of the church

The fast moving fire consumed the roof of the cathedral. This evening, President Emmanuel Macron said the whole nation was moved.

The fast moving fire consumed the roof of the cathedral. This evening, President Emmanuel Macron said the whole nation was moved. 'Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of all of us burn,' he tweeted

Smoke continues to billow into the Paris sky this evening as firefighters try to stop the flames from spreading

Smoke continues to billow into the Paris sky this evening as firefighters try to stop the flames from spreading

Pictures from inside the centuries old church show the stone-built roof of the structure partially caved in after the huge blaze

Pictures from inside the centuries old church show the stone-built roof of the structure partially caved in after the huge blaze

Many of the church pews were pictured intact despite the blaze as the stone-made part of the church remained largely intact despite the wooden roof structure caving in

Many of the church pews were pictured intact despite the blaze as the stone-made part of the church remained largely intact despite the wooden roof structure caving in

Firefighters had also struggled to take down many of the large paintings in the cathedral, administrative cleric Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said, meaning the scale of the devastation will not be known for some time.

But at the height of the inferno, many feared the entire building would be lost.

Cathedral spokesman Andre Finot said: 'Everything is burning. The frame - which dates to the 19th century on one side and the 13th century on the other – there will be nothing left.'

And as the fire spread, President Macron Tweeted: 'Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn.'

He was joined by politicians, religious leaders and academics who lamented the losses suffered.

'If Paris is the Eiffel Tower then France is Notre Dame. It's the entire culture, entire history of France incarnated in this monument,' Bernard Lecomte, a writer and specialist in religious history told French TV.

The Vatican expressed its 'incredulity' and 'sadness' over the fire and offered prayers for firefighters tackling the blaze and solidarity with the French people.

In Washington, Donald tweeted: 'So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.'

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sent the best wishes of the Anglican church to people at the scene. 'Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic Notre Dame fire - and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ,' he said.

And British Prime Minister Theresa May added: 'My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze.'

Firefighters were still battling to bring the blaze under control as night drew in on Paris and the roof of Notre Dame was still on fire. The stained glass window also appeared to have been destroyed by the heat of the fire

Firefighters were still battling to bring the blaze under control as night drew in on Paris and the roof of Notre Dame was still on fire. The stained glass window also appeared to have been destroyed by the heat of the fire

The scaffolding at the top of the church and the wooden frame of the building was said to be completely ablaze by a cathedral spokesperson

The scaffolding at the top of the church and the wooden frame of the building was said to be completely ablaze by a cathedral spokesperson

The famous spire of Notre Dame collapsed dramatically at around 7.15pm GMT after the blaze tore through the wooden structure at the top of the building

The famous spire of Notre Dame collapsed dramatically at around 7.15pm GMT after the blaze tore through the wooden structure at the top of the building

Firefighters tackle the blaze on Monday evening as flames and smoke rise from the Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris

Firefighters tackle the blaze on Monday evening as flames and smoke rise from the Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris

As the flames died down, thoughts turned to rebuilding the monument.

In an impassioned speech outside the cathedral, President Macron said: 'We will appeal to the greatest talents and we will rebuild Notre Dame because that's what the French are waiting for, because that's what our history deserves, because it's our deepest destiny.'

Late on Monday evening French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding the cathedral.

In a statement sent the CEO of the Kering group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent houses, said the money towards 'the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre Dame' would be paid by the Pinault family's investment firm Artemis.

The cathedral is one of Europe's most-visited landmarks, and as Holy Week got underway yesterday, thousands of tourists were in the vicinity and were joined by locals who spilled open-mouthed onto the streets to watch the disaster unfolding.

Firefighters douse flames billowing from the roof as they try to stop the flames spreading. Nobody has been injured, junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said at the scene, adding: 'It's too early to determine the causes of the fire'

Firefighters douse flames billowing from the roof as they try to stop the flames spreading. Nobody has been injured, junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said at the scene, adding: 'It's too early to determine the causes of the fire'

The burning orange of the flames can be seen through the rose petal window this evening as Parisians and tourists look on in horror as the blaze continues to spread at the cathedral

The burning orange of the flames can be seen through the rose petal window this evening as Parisians and tourists look on in horror as the blaze continues to spread at the cathedral

People watch in Paris this evening as the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral continues to swarm the building, as firefighters fight to contain it

People watch in Paris this evening as the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral continues to swarm the building, as firefighters fight to contain it

The spire collapses while flames are burning through the roof at teh Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris today. The blaze started in the late afternoon at one of the most visited monuments in the French capital

The spire collapses while flames are burning through the roof at teh Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris today. The blaze started in the late afternoon at one of the most visited monuments in the French capital

A cordon is in place as fire crews spray water on the Gothic cathedral to try and stem the flames this evening

A cordon is in place as fire crews spray water on the Gothic cathedral to try and stem the flames this evening

A lone firefighter on a crane uses a hose to try and extiguish the flames this evening. British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her thoughts for the people of France and emergency services battling a devastating fire this evening

A lone firefighter on a crane uses a hose to try and extiguish the flames this evening. British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her thoughts for the people of France and emergency services battling a devastating fire this evening

The flames have engulfed large parts of the Cathedral, located in central Paris. A spurt of water can be seen at the bottom right of the picture as firefighters do battle with the blaze this evening. 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

The flames have engulfed large parts of the Cathedral, located in central Paris. A spurt of water can be seen at the bottom right of the picture as firefighters do battle with the blaze this evening. 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

The spire seen leaning slightly over as it began to give way because of the fire ripping through its foundations and the rest of the roof

The spire seen leaning slightly over as it began to give way because of the fire ripping through its foundations and the rest of the roof

One of the turrets on the cathedral before it collapsed

The turret after it collapsed

One of the turrets on the cathedral before it collapsed (left) at around 7.00pm this evening and afterwards at around 7.30pm

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after the fire broke out that he was sad to see 'a part of us burn' and sent his sympathies to people across France

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after the fire broke out that he was sad to see 'a part of us burn' and sent his sympathies to people across France

A visibly upset Emmanual Macron walking near the Notre Dame Cathedral as it burns

Locals watch on helplessly as Notre Dame burns

A visibly upset Emmanual Macron walking near the Notre Dame Cathedral as it burns (left) and locals watch on helplessly (r)

'Notre-Dame survived all the wars, all the bombardments. We never thought it could burn. I feel incredibly sad and empty,' Stephane Seigneurie, a consultant who joined other shocked onlookers in a solemn rendition of 'Ave Maria' as they watched the fire from a nearby bridge.

'Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before,' said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s.

Jacky Lafortune, a 72-year-old artist and self-described atheist stood forlornly on the banks of the River Seine staring at the cathedral.

Comparing the mood in the French capital to the aftermath of a terror attack he said: 'But this stirs much deeper emotions because Notre-Dame is linked to the very foundations of our culture.'

The cathedral, one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe, is located at the centre of the French capital in the Middle Ages and its construction was completed in the mid-14th century after some 200 years of work.

Parisians took to the city's streets last night to pray, sing and reminisce about Notre Dame cathedral as it burned before them

Parisians took to the city's streets last night to pray, sing and reminisce about Notre Dame cathedral as it burned before them

The emotions became too much for some locals who gathered in the shadow of the cathedral to watch its slow destruction

The emotions became too much for some locals who gathered in the shadow of the cathedral to watch its slow destruction

During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the cathedral was vandalised in widespread anti-Catholic violence. Its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.

It would go on to feature as a central character in a Victor Hugo novel published in 1831, 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' and shortly afterwards a restoration project lasting two decades got under way, led by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The building survived the devastation of two global conflicts in the 20th century and famously rang its bells on August 24, 1944, the day of the Liberation of Paris from German occupation at the end of the World War II.

Before yesterday's blaze it was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, and bronze statues had been removed last week for works.

Its 330ft-long roof, of which a large section was consumed in the first hour of the blaze, was one of the oldest such structures in Paris.

I walked through the gutted cathedral… then the crucifix shone from what remained of the altar, a symbol of defiance in the gloom: ROBERT HARDMAN is among first witnesses inside ravaged Notre Dame 

Sparks and bits of flaming woodwork are still cascading from the remnants of the 12th-century roof.

The smell instantly sears the back of your throat like a dose of smelling salts and my feet are soaked. The ancient black and white tiles leading up the aisle are under a gently-flowing river of hose water from the fire crews pumping what seems like much of the River Seine from their elevated platforms.

Yet I can faithfully report that the Cathedral of Notre Dame is not entirely destroyed. Because I am standing inside it – alongside the French prime minister.

In the early hours of this morning, I was among the first people to be allowed inside the ruins of one of the world's finest cathedrals following the fire which has shocked not just the entire French nation but much of the planet.

A blaze which begin in the cathedral's loft at 6.30pm had turned into an all-consuming catastrophe by nightfall. Officials reported that the wooden interior of the medieval cathedral had been almost completely destroyed.

Certainly, Notre Dame's spire is no more. Great chunks of its eastern end are no more. Its world-famous stained glass windows are in smithereens and the whole edifice is open to the skies.

The entrance to the cathedral on Monday evening

The unspoilt pews inside the main church building

Robert Hardman was given access to the charred remains of the Notre Dame cathedral in the early hours of Tuesday morning

Smoke is seen around the alter inside Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening. Miracolously the cross and altar have managed to survive the inferno

Smoke is seen around the alter inside Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening. Miracolously the cross and altar have managed to survive the inferno

But Paris will wake today to see that the cathedral that has defied world wars, enemy occupations, revolutions and mobs galore is still poking its head above the Paris skyline.

And at 1am today, at the far end of the cathedral, illuminated by lingering embers and firefighters' equipment, I could just make out a stunning symbol of defiance through the gloom: the unmistakeable sight of a crucifix on what remains of the altar.

Notre Dame is gravely damaged. Yet its most spectacular features – the 850-year-old twin towers – are still there. For centuries, these were the highest structures in Paris until the Eiffel Tower came along. To this day, they are instantly recognisable the world over. And last night, though looking very sorry for themselves, they were in one piece as I stood beneath them alongside a posse of fire crews and prime ministerial aides.

Within hours, speculation was rife as to the cause of the fire. For now, it seems that it was what one official called a 'stray flame' – linked to a £5 million restoration project – which sparked the inferno.

Experts have warned for years that the cathedral has been in a poor condition, with the French state reluctant to fund renovation work in recent decades.

Experts said that the building needed a £129.5million (€150million) restoration, but the state had only offered €40million.

Outside Notre Dame where cranes and firemen were still hard at work

Emergency service personnel near the entrance to the cathedral

Pictures taken outside the cathedral and from the entrance hall in the early hours of Tuesday show emergency service personnel still working to make the site safe

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 centre of Paris. Firefighters can be seen on the left, fighting the fire

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 centre of Paris. Firefighters can be seen on the left, fighting the fire

The cathedral was seeking private donations to make up the rest.

The flames were first spotted just minutes after the building had closed to the public for the day. Echoing the fears of his entire country, French president Emmanuel Macron instantly declared a national emergency. 'Our Lady of Paris in flames,' he declared on Twitter. 'Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn.'

He has pledged to rebuild Notre Dame, saying: 'Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we've lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives.

'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.

'Tomorrow a national subscription will be launched for people around the country to help rebuild this great Notre Dame. Because that's what the French people want. That is what their history requires. Because that is our destiny.'

Questions were immediately asked about the way in which a fire could take such a rapid hold of one of the world's most visited – and most beloved – landmarks. The firefighting response was also questioned as few, if any, high-pressure water hoses were able to reach the roof in the first hour. Critically, the Paris prosecutor has already opened an inquiry.

I arrived last night to find a dumbstruck City of Light still bathed in a dismal afterglow. Here, on the banks of the Seine, tens of thousands of people – of all nationalities – stared incredulously at the slow death of a part of France's soul.

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

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

To describe the cathedral of Notre Dame as a national monument is a grave understatement. Imagine Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London all going up in smoke at the same time and you begin to appreciate the magnitude of this loss, except that Notre Dame attracts – or used to attract – twice as many annual visitors as those three London landmarks put together.

That is why, as news began to spread last night, Parisians flocked to the Seine. They came here not as voyeurs but as mourners. They came to pay their last respects. Some sang hymns. Many were in tears. Some brought flowers and cards to place they knew not where. Understandably, perhaps, no one saw fit to light a candle. 

From medieval times, Notre Dame has marked the epochs in the story of this proud country and inspired one of the most famous literary masterpieces in the French language, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This August marks the 75th anniversary of the day that General Charles De Gaulle marked the liberation of Paris within its walls, even as sporadic gunfire continued outside.

This is a city which was famously spared the destruction which history has wreaked on so many other European capitals. It really did feel blessed; almost eternal. Not any more. Those twin towers are now blackened and wide open to the elements. By midnight, however, the flames had died down as the first glimmers of firemen's torches could be seen here and there in the remains.

I joined what I can only describe as a requiem mass of Parisians chanting prayers on the Pont de Notre Dame. All approaches to the cathedral's island site had been sealed off to the public but crowds kept on coming from all directions for a glimpse. 

'At least the two towers are still standing, and they must stay up so that Notre Dame can be reborn,' said civil servant Pascal Boichut, 52. There was a glimmer of hope when Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet told reporters: 'We consider that the main structure of Notre Dame has been preserved.'

In a statement the CEO of the Kering group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent houses, said the money towards 'the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre Dame' would be paid by the Pinault family's investment firm Artemis.

Macron had earlier cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening to respond to months of protests, and instead headed to the scene in person.

He said while the 'worst had been avoided' and the facade and two towers saved, 'the next hours will be difficult'.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said 'we can consider that the main structure of Notre Dame has been saved and preserved' as well as the two towers.

French billionaire pledges 100 million euros to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral 

A French billionaire has pledged 100 million euros to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral as a defiant President Macron launches a national fundraising campaign to restore the building to its former glory.

The catastrophic blaze destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark as horrified Parisians looked on - many in tears and praying - on Monday evening.

A visibly emotional Macron, spoke outside the gothic cathedral and said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday, as he called on the world's 'greatest talents' to help.

He said: 'We will appeal to the greatest talents and we will rebuild Notre Dame because that's what the French are waiting for, because that's what our history deserves, because it's our deepest destiny.'

Late on Monday evening French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was partly gutted by a devastating fire

Late on Monday evening French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was partly gutted by a devastating fire

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to actress Salma Hayek, pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of the cathedral.

In a statement the CEO of the Kering group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent houses, said the money towards 'the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre Dame' would be paid by the Pinault family's investment firm Artemis.

Macron had earlier cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening to respond to months of protests, and instead headed to the scene in person.

He said while the 'worst had been avoided' and the facade and two towers saved, 'the next hours will be difficult'.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said 'we can consider that the main structure of Notre Dame has been saved and preserved' as well as the two towers.

Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, also present at the scene on Monday evening, said that for the first time 'the fire had decreased in intensity' while still urging 'extreme caution'.

The Vatican on Monday expressed its 'incredulity' and 'sadness', expressing 'our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population.'

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

French prosecutors said it was being treated as an 'involuntary' fire, indicating that foul play was ruled out for now.

Parisians applaud the firefighters who formed a human chain to save Notre Dame's priceless collection of art and relics – including the Crown Of Thorns from Jesus' crucifixion 

Firefighters, police, and churchmen risked their lives last night to carry priceless historical artefacts and religious relics away from the flames which engulfed Notre Dame de Paris.

The Mayor of Paris tweeted her thanks to first responders for forming 'a formidable human chain' to save irreplaceable objects including the relic believed by Catholics to be the crown of thorns which was put on Jesus' head as he died on the cross.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo went on: 'The Crown of Thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.'

Emergency responders worked with city staff to manhandle priceless relics away from the fire

Emergency responders worked with city staff to manhandle priceless relics away from the fire

Reliquaries, statues, and artefacts including the crown of thorns were saved from the fire by 'human chain'

Reliquaries, statues, and artefacts including the crown of thorns were saved from the fire by 'human chain'

And Father Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Firefighters, told reporters he went into the burning cathedral to save the Blessed Sacrament and Crown of Thorns.

Parisians applauded and cheered fire crews as they drove through the streets in the early hours of the morning.

The church's treasure trove of priceless artworks and religious relics include the Crown of Thorns said to have been placed on the head of Jesus before he was crucified, a piece of the True Cross on which he is said to have died and a nail from the crucifixion.

The relics were obtained from the Byzantine Empire in 1238 and brought to Paris by King Louis IX.

Notre Dame is also home to priceless paintings dating back to the 1600s, including a series known as the Petits Mays, gifted to the cathedral once a year from 1630 to 1707.

Among the most celebrated artworks are three stained-glass rose windows high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral.

Shortly after midnight, Paris time, the artefacts had been safely transferred to a storage room

Shortly after midnight, Paris time, the artefacts had been safely transferred to a storage room

Worries onlookers were filmed looking at the salvaged antiquities on the night the cathedral's ancient roof burned to cinders

Worries onlookers were filmed looking at the salvaged antiquities on the night the cathedral's ancient roof burned to cinders

Notre Dame's Great Organ, which dates back to the 13th century and was restored in the early 1990s, is considered the most famous in the world, with five keyboards and nearly 8,000 pipes.

Last night firemen at the scene said all efforts were being directed at saving artwork in the cathedral and preventing the collapse of its northern tower.

'Everything is collapsing,' a police officer near the scene said as the cathedral continued to burn.

The ten bells of Notre Dame are renowned across Europe and the first nine are named Marie, Gabriel, Anne-Genevieve, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoit-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie.

The final and largest, known as the bourdon bell Emmanuel, weighs more than 13 tonnes. It

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