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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Gina Vivinetto

A crowd of Parisians gathered to recite prayers and sing together as they watched the historic Notre Dame Cathedral burn on Monday.

Hundreds of residents of the City of Lights joined together to sing the traditional Catholic prayer "Je vous salue Marie" (Hail Mary), as they watched the 800-year-old cathedral being engulfed by raging flames.

Grief-stricken mourners were seen holding hands, and others kneeled together in prayer.

Earlier in the day, a massive fire erupted in the historic cathedral, causing its roof to collapse and destroying a spire. The blaze gradually spread to one of the building's rectangular towers.

A city official said the structure of the building had been saved.

In video footage seen around the world, flames and billowing smoke surrounded the famous church where $6.8 million in renovations were being done.

In the French capital, the sight of the fire brought onlookers to tears.

Mourners kneel on the pavement as they pray outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday night. Eric Feferberg / AFP - Getty Images

The house of worship is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, an enduring symbol of both the city and of Christianity.

That the fire came during Holy Week, when millions of Christians mark the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, made it that much more emotional to witness.

Inside the church, too, rare and historic items may have been lost.

People look on as Notre Dame Cathedral is engulfed in flames.Martin Barzilai/Bloomberg / Getty Images

The spire that was destroyed by the fire contained sacred artifacts such as a relic believed to be from Jesus Christ's crown of thorns.

French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a scheduled speech due to the fire. He later spoke outside of Notre Dame Cathedral, saying, "It is our common history, and it is burning."

"Notre Dame is aflame," he tweeted on Monday. "Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight."