The startling images of the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral today (April 15) have captured the world’s attention.

Plumes of smoke towered into the sky as massive flames burst up from the roof, engulfing the cathedral’s spire.  French media reports that the fire appears to have started by an accident related to renovations within Notre Dame, whose construction started in the 12th-century and was completed in the 14th. It is one of Paris’s most visited tourist destinations, and one of its most recognizable, a formidable feature of a multitude of paintings, photography, film and literature.

Photos show the grim scene of the growing fire with the massive church, spilling out across the roof, ultimately toppling the spire. Across the Seine, tourists watched in horror as the situation unfolded, capturing the scene with their phones and cameras as the sun set over a smoky Paris.

Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty
The spire of the landmark Notre Dame cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019.
Reuters/Charles Platiau
People watch as fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
AP Photo
Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke fill the air above Notre Dame.
AP Photo/Lori Hinant
A view of Notre Dame burning from across the Seine.
Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty
Seeing the smoke rise from Notre Dame in the distance.
Reuters/Julie Carriat
Smoke billows from the cathedral after a fire destroyed its spire.
Reuters/Charles Platiau
Smoke billows from Notre Dame, where scaffolding was in place when the fire broke out.
Reuters/Benoit Tessier
The view from a bridge as Notre Dame burns.
Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
Flames burst through Notre Dame’s roof.
Edouard Magrino/AFP/Getty Images
Tourists and Paris residents look on at the stunning scene.
Reuters/Benoit Tessier
The spire of the cathedral is exposed by flames.
AP Photo/Thibault Camus
The roof and spire engulfed in flames.
AP Photo
A view of Paris as the smoke from the Notre Dame fire rises over the city.