KEY POINTS

* The 850-year-old famous cathedral has been virtually destroyed in a massive blaze

* The fire may have been accidentally sparked by renovation works

* French President Emmanuel Macron: "I am sad tonight to see this part of us burning."

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* 12 million people visit Notre Dame each year - it also houses famous artworks


Imagine the guilt you'd be feeling as one of the people who had been working on the €6 million restoration work of the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece that is Notre Dame Cathedral.

Built in 1160, the world-famous cathedral celebrated for its architecture that includes gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses and artwork such as the three stained-glass rose windows was gutted by fire on Tuesday morning, New Zealand time.

It is also famous for the priceless treasures it houses including Catholic relics, the Crown of Thorns, purported to have been worn by Jesus Christ before his crucifixion as well as pieces of the True Cross and one of Holy Nails from the crucifixion - an event recognised Good Friday as part of Easter weekend.

Fire broke out about 4.50am NZT on Tuesday and soon after, fire officials were reported to have said they were "not sure" if the blaze could be stopped. Efforts were immediately made to save relics and treasures. Firefighters were also reported as saying the tragic blaze, being treated as an accident, could have been linked to the restoration work.

Coincidentally or not, the third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Asqa Mosque, was also on fire at the same time.

Could you imagine being one of those involved in the restoration work and potentially linked to the destruction of 850 years worth of history?

Even if you had done absolutely nothing wrong and undoubtedly completely innocent, a normal feeling of - even just momentarily - guilt, shame and burden would come over you as you watched flames take over one of the most beloved structures in the world and the collapse of its main spire and roof.

There have been tears, there has been destruction, there have been evacuations of residents living nearby, at least one of the hundreds of firefighters battling the blaze has suffered severe injuries, and there has been an outpouring of grief from around the world over this fire.

I've not even been to Notre Dame Cathedral but can feel immense sadness for France.

French president Emmanuel Macron committing to rebuilding Notre Dame is poignant, with plans on how to do just that set to begin in a matter of hours.

He is right when he says: "We will rebuild because it is what French people expect, it is what our history deserves".