Notre Dame Cathedral, one of Europe’s best known landmarks and a French national treasure, is ablaze. Thousands of Parisians and tourists are watching in horror as flames and billowing smoke rise from the Gothic cathedral. The fire, which broke out this evening around 6:30 p.m., is especially tragic as it is occurring during Holy Week. Firefighters are battling the ferocious blaze.

Horrified Parisians watch in shock

“I was still at work when the fire started,” says Philip Tejeda, an American accountant living in Paris. “I got out of the Metro at Hotel de Ville, just north of Notre Dame. There were thousands of people there, and we could see the flames coming off the top of the cathedral.”

On his walk home from the Metro station, accountant Philip Tejeda captured the flames billowing from Notre Dame and the crowds of people watching in horror as the flames raged and the spire toppled.

Fire came through the historic stained glass windows, according to Melanie Gouby. “Nearly a thousand years of history going up in flames. Completely heartbroken,” she tweeted.

Historic Treasure

The cathedral, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, is the most visited monument in Europe and welcomes approximately 13 million visitors each year, according to That translates to about 30,000 visitors per day. Notre Dame was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990.

There is no word yet on the extent of the damage. See CNN for live updates on the fire.

Notre Dame Cathedral is Europe’s most visited monument. Photo compliments of Pixabay: