Notre Dame Alter Smoke

Smoke rises in front of the altar at Notre Dame Cathedral after fire engulfed the building.

(CNN) -- Shafts of orange light stream in through the shattered roof, illuminating piles of rubble still smoldering on the cathedral floor.

The once-magnificent vaulted ceiling is reduced to threadbare beams, interlaced like delicate matchsticks.

And among it all, candles still burn.

Candles Burning Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Candles still burning inside the cathedral, in this photo obtained by CNN.

These remarkable photos, some obtained exclusively by CNN, show the scale of damage inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral, partially destroyed in a fire Monday evening.

The blaze destroyed part of the roof and sent the cathedral's spire toppling, to the horror of thousands of onlookers.

Thanks to the hours-long work of around 400 firefighters, the main structure of the building and the two towers on the Western facade were saved.

Incredibly, some candles are shown still burning in the nave -- lit by visitors hours before the blaze began.

The images, believed to have been taken in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and passed to CNN, show water still coming from a hose pointed inside the building.

They also reveal blocks of white rubble scattered across the cathedral floor, and embers falling from a hole in the roof.

Visiting the blackened insides of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, French President Emmanuel Macron called it a "terrible tragedy," but added the "worst had been avoided."

Visibly shaken, Macron vowed to "rebuild this cathedral together" -- an effort that could take decades, experts told CNN.

Some of France's richest businessmen have already pledged hundreds of millions of euros towards the restoration. Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods group LVMH, pledged 200 million euros ($226 million).

One witness, Anne Marie, had tears in her eyes as she said: "In Paris, it's a monumental symbol -- every person with different religions are really moved and saddened," she said.

"Paris without the cathedral is not Paris anymore."


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