Notre-Dame cathedral on fire

David Chazan
A fire at Notre Dame, Paris, April 15, 2019. - @ecoursin/Twitter

Notre-Dame cathedral has caught fire, according to the Parisian fire service and eyewitnesses. Footage posted online shows a large fire engulfing the upper part of the cathedral, with the flames licking around its two bell towers. 

A major operation was under way, the fire department added, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Officials in Paris said the fire, which started around 7pm local time, could be linked to renovation works being carried out at the cathedral. French media reports added that the fire was started by accident, citing police sources. 

It comes after France's Saint Sulpice church , used in the filming of Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ thriller, caught fire in March. 

Firefighters were able to bring that fire under control and no one was hurt. 

 Notre-Dame Cathedral, whose construction started in 1163, is the most visited monument in France, with an average of 30,000 people per day. 

It is justifiably famous for its magnificent facade, but the interior boasts unique carvings, statuary and stained-glass windows whose rose windows are some of the biggest in Europe.

The church also houses numerous treasures belonging to figures including the French King Louis IX, or Saint Louis the architect Viollet-Le-Duc and Pope John-Paul II.  

The most precious treasure, the Crown of Thorns, is housed in Notre-Dame'sm one of three holy artifacts along with the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails from the crucifixion.

This is a breaking news story. More to follow.