From the outside, the imposing bell towers and outer walls, with their vast flying buttresses, still stood firm, but the insides and the upper structure were eviscerated by the fire.
French authorities have said the fire that tore through the structure was probably caused by accident.
Prosecutors made the announcement on Tuesday, April 16, after firefighters doused the last flames in the ruins overnight.
Investigators will not be able to enter the cathedral’s blackened nave until experts are satisfied its stone walls withstood the heat and the building is structurally sound.
The fire swiftly ripped through the cathedral’s timbered roof supports, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations to collapsed balustrades and crumbling gargoyles, as well as the spire’s wooden frame.
The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into “involuntary destruction by fire.”
Police on Tuesday began questioning the workers involved in the restoration, the prosecutor’s office said.
‘A Symbol of Our Country’
“The fire is fully extinguished,” fire service spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters. “Our job today is to monitor the structure and its movements.”
Video shows firefighters inside Notre-Dame surveying the damage in Paris’ fire-ravaged cathedral. pic.twitter.com/PEFdWBOI1C
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) April 16, 2019
“It’s a symbol of our country that risked being destroyed,” Culture Minister Franck Riester said.
— Alexandre Fremont (@alex_fremont) April 15, 2019
Firefighters who entered the burning building saved many of its treasures, Riester said, although some paintings remained inside and risked smoke and water damage.
There were many sculptures, paintings, and statues inside the cathedral that were at serious risk of damage.
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 16, 2019
‘Rose Window’ Trio Survives
A photograph shared on social media shows one of the cathedral’s three stained glass “Rose Windows” having survived the blaze intact.
Looks like the Rose window survived the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday: pic.twitter.com/M3CtjS5pOy
— Freemanpedia (@freemanpedia) April 16, 2019
The Archbishop of Paris said all three have been saved, according to CNN affiliate BFM TV.
Most of the cathedral’s precious treasures appear to have been saved.
“We managed to protect the most precious treasures in a safe place,” a Paris City Hall representative told CNN.
The fate of several items, including a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails, is unknown.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 16, 2019
A Challenging Blaze
Firehoses looked overmatched as flames raged across the cathedral’s wooden roof and burned bright orange for hours. The fire toppled a 300-foot spire and launched baseball-sized embers into the air.
Hundreds of stunned onlookers had lined the banks of the Seine river late into the night as the fire raged, reciting prayers and singing liturgical music in harmony as they stood in vigil.
While the cause remains under investigation, authorities said that the cathedral’s structure—including its landmark rectangular towers—has been saved.
Some of the factors that made Notre Dame a must-see for visitors to Paris—its age, sweeping size and French Gothic design featuring masonry walls and tree trunk-sized wooden beams—also made it a tinderbox and a difficult place to fight a fire, said U.S. Fire Administrator G. Keith Bryant.
With a building like that, it’s nearly impossible for firefighters to attack a fire from within. Instead, they have to be more defensive “and try to control the fire from the exterior,” said Bryant, a former fire chief in Oklahoma and past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
“When a fire gets that well-involved it’s very difficult to put enough water on it to cool it to bring it under control,” Bryant said.
It was too early to estimate the cost of the damage, said Bertrand de Feydeau of the Fondation du Patrimoine, a charity which works to protect French heritage, but it is likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The construction of Notre Dame—which means “Our Lady”—began in 1160 and was, for the most part, completed a hundred years later.
The structure of the imposing cathedral has been modified several times since it was erected.
Reuters contributed to this report.