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What the Notre Dame Cathedral fire looked like

A catastrophic fire spread through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, toppling its spire, destroying its roof and devastating the city where it has stood for more than 800 years.

Late Monday, after hundreds of firefighters had battled the blaze for hours, authorities said they had saved the twin bell towers at either side of the building’s grand entry. Nearly nine hours after it began, they announced the fire was “completely under control.”

The cathedral was undergoing renovations, and officials suspected the fire was an accident related to the construction. The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation.

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The blaze at the historic site captivated the country and stunned its citizens. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed anguish on Twitter. “I do not have a strong enough word to express the pain that I feel,” she wrote.

President Emmanuel Macron canceled a scheduled address to visit the scene himself. “I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” he said.“Notre Dame of Paris is our history. The epicenter of our lives.”

Macron announced an international campaign to raise money for the monumental rebuild. Within hours, dozens of online fundraisers sprang up, and one French billionaire promised to donate 100 million euros to the effort.

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Construction at the Catholic cathedral began in 1163 and continued for more than two centuries. The completed structure is considered one of the greatest works of French Gothic architecture.

The building has endured stages of neglect before — especially after the French Revolution in the late 18th century.

However, the cathedral’s dominant position in the Parisian skyline, atop the Ile de la Cite in the Seine River, as well as its place in French literature like Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” led to successful calls for renovation in the 19th century.

It is now the most visited monument in Paris, with more than 12 million visitors a year — nearly double the number who visit the Eiffel Tower — and is at the geographic and cultural heart of the city.

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After the fire was finally extinguished, French authorities were able to assess some of the damage on Tuesday.

Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez told reporters that the overall structure of the church appears to be intact, but there were “some points of vulnerability,” including in the vault.

The most precious stained-glass rose windows in the cathedral, dating to the 12th and 13th centuries, are also likely intact, according to a cathedral spokesman.

“It’s a bit of a miracle. We’re very relieved,” André Finot told BFMTV.

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post

Cyril Zannettacci / Agence VU for The Washington Post