LUDLOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has been burning for several hours.
For generations, Notre Dame has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer.
Monday night, a special Mass celebrating the Holy Week will be held here at St. Michael's Cathedral, but as Notre Dame Cathedral continues to burn, it's an especially devastating sight for local Catholics.
Fierce flames tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Monday afternoon.
The cathedral has been under renovation.
One of the most difficult sights from today's fire was when flames sent the spire crashing down amid the scaffolding.
Western Mass News spoke with Msgr. Homer Gosselin from Saint Elizabeth's Parish in Ludlow, who said he is overwhelmed by the loss.
"Shock, you know, tragedy. It is such a beautiful basilica. I had the pleasure to visit the basilica back in 2008 for the Pilgrimage of Lords and we spent a couple of days in Paris," said Msgr. Gosselin.
The fire quickly spread, but firefighters had a difficulty time getting to the scene during the afternoon rush hour.
The French Interior Ministry said that 400 firefighters are battling the flames.
The famed cathedral is a popular destinations for visitors in Paris, with about 13 million people per year.
"i just can't imagine what the Parisians, how they feel. It is something that you don't expect, you know. This is such a landmark. You see it there all the time and you expect it to be there. It's been there so long, you expect it to be there forever," Gosselin noted.
The Cathedral dates back almost 1,000 years.
The Vatican released a statement about the tragic fire. It read, in part:
"The Holy See has learned with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Christianity, in France and in the world. We express our closeness to the French Catholic and to the people of Paris. We pray for the firefighters and for all those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation."
Gosselin added, "Notre Dame is right up. There is importance of historic site in Paris and for that to happen on Monday of Holy Week, there are thousands of pilgrims who are going through that building."
Right now, authorities believe the fire was started accidentally and the structure of the cathedral has been saved.