ROME, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Italian leaders late on Monday expressed solidarity with France after a massive fire tore through the roof of the Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) cathedral, a Gothic structure whose flying buttresses, enormous rose windows and sculptural decorations were a symbol of the French nation, much like the Eiffel Tower.
The cathedral, which drew millions of visitors from around the world every year, was built beginning in the 12th century and was partially destroyed during the French Revolution in the 1790s.
In a televised speech to the nation shortly before midnight on Monday, a visibly moved President Emmanuel Macron said that "the worst has been averted" thanks to the bravery and skill of the hundreds of firefighters who fought the blaze that started in the early evening, and promised the French people that Notre Dame will be rebuilt.
In a message to Macron, Italian President Sergio Mattarella wrote that "the whole of Italy stands in sincere friendship with the people of France".
Mattarella described the Cathedral of Notre Dame as "a historic treasure that has housed an exceptional artistic heritage of immense significance for France, for Europe, and for world culture" in his message, which was published by Italian news agency ANSA late on Monday.
Speaking to RAI public broadcaster, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he will contact the French government "to express the extreme and moved participation on the part of the Italian government and the Italian people in this bereavement, because I consider this a true bereavement".
The prime minister added that Notre Dame was "a monument of the French identity and of all those who loved the values of Western civilization".
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio tweeted that "I stand with the people of France over this terrible fire that has struck the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a heritage of humanity as a whole. For Paris and for France, the support of the entire Italian government!"