NOTRE DAME'S golden altar cross was seen glowing among the gloomy ashes in a symbol of hope after a massive inferno ripped through the 850-year-old cathedral.
The glimmer of good news comes after fears the entire Parisienne landmark would be destroyed as the blaze gutted parts of the Gothic structure last night.
BackGrid40 A golden altar cross was seen glowing amongst the ashes after the devastating fire ripped through Notre-Dame last night
BackGrid40 Parts of the iconic cathedral's roof and spire were destroyed in the fire
AFP or licensors40 But firefighters now believe they have saved the main structure of the church from total destruction
President Emmanuel Macron last night vowed to rebuild the 12th century structure as he thanked firefighters for rushing to the scene and forming a "human chain" to pull some of the landmark's most precious relics to safety.
Millions of pounds have already been donated to help rebuild the cathedral, including from Salma Hayek's French billionaire husband Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault.
Photographs this morning show emergency services dousing the church with water after battling throughout the night, with at least one of the upper rose windows melted in the inferno's heat.
Among the most precious relics saved is the item venerated as the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ – considered Paris’s equivalent of the Crown Jewels.
Paris firefighters this morning confirmed the blaze had been fully extinguished, with the main structure saved.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- Huge blaze broke out at 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral at 5.30pm local time
- 300ft spire collapsed and Gothic roof turned to ash in ferocious blaze
- 400 firefighters battled inferno before main structure was saved
- Prosecutors ruled out arson but an investigation is underway – fire 'linked to renovation works'
- President Emmanuel Macron said 'We will rebuild' as Paris mourned loss
WHAT CAUSED THE BLAZE?
French prosecutors launched an immediate investigation into the cause of the fire, although arson has been ruled out.
It is believed a "stray flame" linked to £5million renovation work sparked the inferno in the loft that saw plumes of black smoke billow into the sky.
An emergency service source said: "It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof.
"The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze."
Scaffolding which had been set up around the building has been decimated along with large parts of the cathedral itself, including the 300ft spire, which dates back to the mid-19th Century.
Two police officers and one firefighter were slightly wounded as they responded to the blaze.
40 The catastrophic fire wrecked the Gothic roof of the legendary Parisian landmark
Reuters40 Inside the Notre Dame as smoke is seen rising around the altar
BackGrid40 A firefighter shines a light into the ash-filled cathedral
Reuters40 The structure was left smouldering this morning after the blaze
Reuters40 Witnesses were forced to look on in horror as the fire gutted the cathedral's roof
Reuters40 Large parts of the Gothic gem were destroyed
Reuters40 Firefighters battled long into the night to tackle the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral
Sky.IT40 Officials in Paris feared the blaze could have destroyed the 850-year-old medieval church
BackGrid40 Emergency services worked throughout the night to control the blaze
'WE WILL REBUILD'
President Emmanuel Macron, who went to the scene at the height of the blaze last night, promised: "We will rebuild".
Addressing crowds outside the burning landmark, he announced a public fund to collect donations for the building works.
He said: "The fire will go on for several days. I would like to thank the firefighters on behalf of the nation.
"At this time, the worst has been avoided.
"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."
This morning, experts are expected to begin their investigations into whether the structure is still stable.
It came as world leaders – from Theresa May to Angela Merkel – paid tribute to the symbol of France.
40 Pictures show that a turret on the cathedral has collapsed
AFP or licensors40 Dramatic pictures show the church's iconic spire collapsing
At the height of the blaze, Paris authorities admitted getting firefighters to the top of the building “was almost impossible.”
“It’s much too high up, and the only access is stone and spiral staircases – getting fire fighting crews up there is impossible,” said a source.
Firefighters were seen on mounted platforms in an attempt to reach some of the highest points of the fire.
The wooden frame of the church, nicknamed “The Forest”, is “incredibly flammable” according to Notre Dame expert Daniel Christian.
In total, it contains around 1,300 trees and is believed to have contributed to the blaze spreading so quickly.
An emergency services source said that a water drop via plane or helicopter "was impossible" because the weight of the water dropped at low altitude would weaken the building and cause "extreme damage."
"Everything is collapsing," a cop near the scene said as the entire roof of the cathedral continued to burn.
AFP or licensors40 The spire, built in the 19th century, has been destroyed by the inferno
Getty – Contributor40 The fire has spread quickly and the entire wooden interior of the church was burning, an official said
AFP or licensors40 An aerial picture of the troubled cathedral which marks the centre of Paris
Reuters40 Part of the cathedral's Gothic roof collapsed during the horrific blaze
Reuters40 Firefighters enter the ancient building in Paris which contains priceless art work
EPA40 President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte pay a visit to firemen fighting against the inferno
EPA40 The blaze has been linked to restoration work which is taking place at the cathedral
AFP or licensors40 The scaffolding can be seen still standing around the structure
AFP or licensors40 Much of the Gothic structure appeared to be burnt out
EPA40 A fire fighter can be seen trying to get to flames
LOCALS CRY IN THE STREET
Locals and tourists alike were last night left stunned as they watched the flames take a hold of the iconic structure.
New York tourists Laura and Kareem Cowart said: “It is a tragedy. The art. What’s inside. You can never replace it.”
Locals broke out in singing prayers in multiple places nearby.
One pulled up the words of a song dedicated to the Notre Dame, as tears rolled down his face.
“My heart bleeds,” said Bertrand, a finance executive. “I was at home when I heard the news. I’m here now praying with strangers.”
Notre Dame fire – An emotional crowd sings hymns in unity 300 yards from the ablaze Paris cathedral
AP:Associated Press40 Firefighters douse flames billowing from the roof as Eiffel Tower shines a light onto the famous cathedral
40 Firefighters, police, and churchmen risked their lives last night to carry priceless historical artefacts and religious relics away from the flames
40 Notre Dame was home to a number of priceless artefacts, rushed away from the blaze
40 The Mayor of Paris tweeted her thanks to first responders for forming 'a formidable human chain' to save irreplaceable objects
Our Lady of Paris: A history of Notre Dame
- One of the city's oldest and most recognisable buildings, work began on Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in 1163.
- The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to "Our Lady of Paris".
- Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year – more than 30,000 every day on average.
- It is believed to be the most visited structure in the French capital.
- The first stone of the original structure was laid in front of Pope Alexander III after the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, proposed the cathedral after his election in 1160.
- It grew iconic in popular culture through several artistic works, including the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was published in 1831 and adapted by Disney in 1996.
- The spire, which collapsed during the devastating fire, has undergone several changes in the building's history.
- The 13th century spire was dismantled during the French Revolution and later rebuilt in the 1860s.
- The cathedral's stained glass rose windows – at least one of which has been destroyed by the blaze – are also some of its most architecturally significant features.
- A brass plate set in stone outside the building also marks "Point Zero" in Paris, the centre of the city.
- It is the point in France from where all distances to Paris are measured.
- A message engraved around the stone reads: "Point zero des routes de France".
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump bizarrely suggested that the fire could be put out with "flying water tankers".
He tweeted: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
"Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"
The legendary church is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most visited buildings in the world.
Notre Dame – which means 'Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.
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It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is visited by some 12 million people every year.
Officials at Westminster Abbey in London said in a Tweet: "Devastated for our friends at #NotreDame and for the people of France.
"You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight."
Twitter40 US President Trump has offered advice to those fighting the flames
Twitter40 French President Macron expressed his sadness at the devastating fire
Instagram40 Many, including footballer Neymar, shared this cartoon as they prayed for Paris
AFP or licensors40 A 'stray flame in the building's roof caused the inferno, an emergency services source said
Getty – Contributor40 The blaze destroys part of the cathedral's roof
Getty Images – Getty40 Witnesses were reduced to tears as they watched the horrific fire
Getty – Contributor40 Flames can be seen taking hold of the structure that took hold yesterday evening
Notre Dame fire – This is the moment the Spire collapses as blaze breaks out at the cathedral
EPA40 The blaze could be linked to renovation work which is currently taking place
AFP or licensors40 Stunned tourists have seen thick plumes of smoke filling the sky around the French capital
40 The blaze started at around 5.30pm local time this evening
AFP or licensors40 The Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame is the cathedral's most precious relic
PA:Press Association40 The North Rose stained glass window in the cathedral is feared to have been destroyed by the fire