CARL RUSSO PHOTOS: Firefighters spent hours Monday night battling a stubborn blaze in a historic Catholic Church on Essex Street.

A four-alarm blaze broke out in the rectory of Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church around 6 p.m.

There was heavy fire in the rectory area, with flames heading towards the church roof.

Fire Chief Brian Moriarty ordered an exterior attack, meaning firefighters could not immediately enter the building to battle the blaze.

No immediate injuries were reported and church pastor, the Rev. Francis Mawn, was unharmed, according to Lawrence police.

Around 7:30 p.m., it appeared the fire was under control, with firefighters inside overhauling and searching for hot spots.

In minutes the fire flared again, with flames jumping through the roof. Firefighters were again ordered to evacuate the building and fight the fire from the outside.

Lawrence firefighters were assisted by a hearty contingent of mutual aid firefighters from cities and towns throughout the region, including Andover, North Andover, Lowell, Haverhill, Methuen, Danvers, Middleton, Salem, New Hampshire, Billerica, Reading and North Reading.