The famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, was on fire Monday afternoon, according to the BBC and multiple other reports.
Photos and videos shared to social media show large amounts of smoke billowing from the historic cathedral while onlookers watch. Flames lick the upper part of the cathedral around the two bell towers.
Sirens can be heard in the background of videos while firefighters try to contain the large fire.
Live video of the Notre Dame fire from someone who is extremely close to the scene https://t.co/uFWV8W7o4h— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) April 15, 2019
Parisian fire officials confirmed the fire and that a "major operation" is underway to try and save the 850-year-old Gothic building. A city hall spokesperson said on Twitter that the area was being cleared, according to The Telegraph.
Officials in Paris said that the fire could be linked to renovation works being carried out at the cathedral. Last year, the Catholic Church in France launched and urged appeal for funds to save the cathedral, which was starting to crumble.
The fire comes a few weeks after France's Saint Sulpice church, which was used in the filming of Dan Brown's thriller Da Vinci Code, caught fire in March. Firefighters were able to bring that fire under control and no one was hurt.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, described it as a "terrible fire" on Twitter and urged people at the scene to respect the boundaries set up by fire crews in order to ensure people remain safe.
The cathedral dates back almost 1,000 years. Construction began in the 12th Century, and it took about 300 years to complete. As a result, although it is predominantly French Gothic, there are areas that demonstrate the Renaissance and the Naturalism era of construction.
Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited monument in France, The Telegraph reports, with an average of 30,000 visitors per day. It is praised not only for its magnificent facade, but also for its interior, which boasts unique carvings and stained-glass windows, which are some of the biggest in Europe.
It also houses numerous treasures belonging to figures like the French King Louis IX, Saint Louis the architect Viollet-Le-Duc and Pope John Paul II.
The most precious treasure, the Crown of Thorns, is one of three holy artifacts housed in Notre Dame, along with the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Photo credit: PIERRE GALEY / Contributor / Getty