Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

9:35 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Why Notre Dame is a powerful symbol of France

Firefighters work from a quay of the River Seine at the base of Notre Dame.
Firefighters work from a quay of the River Seine at the base of Notre Dame. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

The cathedral has been a symbol of Catholicism and French identity for over 850 years.

Its foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, and the cathedral was completed in the 13th century.

Today, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, Notre Dame is considered a feat of architecture, as well as a major religious and cultural symbol of France.

Its central spire, which tragically collapsed Monday in the blaze, was built in the 19th century amid a broad restoration effort, partly buoyed by the success of Victor Hugo's novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in 1831.

The cathedral draws millions of visitors. Located in Île de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the city, the cathedral is one of Paris' most popular attractions, drawing an estimated 13 million visitors a year.

9:20 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Artist pays tribute to Notre Dame with Quasimodo sketch

A drawing by architect and artist Cristina Correa Freile has captured how many people are feeling in the aftermath of Monday's devastating fire.

Her sketch, showing Quasimodo from Disney’s "Hunchback of Notre Dame," based on Victor Hugo's novel, has been widely shared on social media.

Correa Freile says she was inspired to create this drawing of the character hugging the cathedral after hearing about the fire.

The artist lives in Ecuador, but has visited Paris twice and loved it.

“I made (this) because of what’s happening right now,” she said. “The world embraces Notre Dame right now.”

9:05 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

See the interior of Notre Dame before the fire

The interior of Notre Dame, seen from the cathedral's pulpit.
The interior of Notre Dame, seen from the cathedral's pulpit. CNN

CNN shot inside the famous Paris cathedral in VR back in 2015 -- click or tap here to view Notre Dame's awe-inspiring interior.

8:41 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Opinion: Watching Notre Dame burn, the entire world was in pain

Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire engulfed the building.
Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire engulfed the building. PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images

In a time of heightened political, religious and sectarian divisions, a fire in a Catholic cathedral in France brought the world together in shared sorrow, writes CNN's world affairs columnist, Frida Ghitis.

“The massive, majestic cathedral looked like it had been there forever, and would remain until the end of time. If only for a moment, Notre Dame ablaze reminded us that we all share this world; that human history means everyone's past," Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, writes.

"If only for a moment, the notion of a 'World Heritage,' which UNESCO formally bestows on places that we, as humanity, ought to care for and cherish so that we can pass them to future generations, seemed exactly right. We all hurt over the loss of Notre Dame.”

Click or tap here to read the whole piece.

8:16 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Paris police: Fire is now under control

Firefighters are seen dousing the facade of the cathedral in the early hours of Tuesday.
Firefighters are seen dousing the facade of the cathedral in the early hours of Tuesday. ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP/Getty Images

A spokesman for Paris police tells CNN the Notre Dame fire is now under control. 

The fire burned for several hours Monday, causing the collapse of the cathedral's iconic spire and the destruction of its roof structure, which dated back to the 13th century.

Consumed by flames, the spire leaned to one side and fell onto the burning roof as horrified onlookers watched.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for saving the cathedral's iconic facade and towers. "Thanks to their bravery, the worst has been avoided."

8:07 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Mayor: Several major artifacts saved from fire

The Crown of Thorns is a relic of the passion of Christ.
The Crown of Thorns is a relic of the passion of Christ. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a tweet that major art pieces and sacred items from Notre Dame were saved from the fire.

"Thanks to the @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents," Hidalgo tweeted, "the Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place."

The cathedral is home to numerous artifacts, works of art and religious relics, each telling a story.

After the devastating fire tore through the cathedral on Monday, toppling its spire, many feared the items -- collected over the centuries -- might be lost. It was unclear how many had been saved.

Click here to take a look at some of the most famous items that the Paris cathedral is home to, including several sacred artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the "true cross" on which Jesus was crucified, and one of the nails used by Romans to crucify Christ.

7:39 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Michelle Obama: Cathedral gives us "a higher understanding of who we are"

Michelle Obama, seen in London at an earlier stop of her "Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama" tour.
Michelle Obama, seen in London at an earlier stop of her "Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama" tour. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The former US first lady, who is in Paris for her book tour, has tweeted about the "majesty" of the cathedral, which is one of the city's most recognizable and visited attractions.

Michelle Obama writes that the "history, artistry, and spirituality" of the famed cathedral "took our breath away, lifting us to a higher understanding of who we are and who we can be."

She signaled her commiseration with the people of Paris, but expressed confidence that it would soon be rebuilt, to "awe us again."