A bastion of Church history, the Notre-Dame houses priceless relics and religious artwork. What was their fate in the wake of the devastating fire?
The fire at the nearly thousand year old Notre-Dame threatened not only the iconic building standing as a symbol of the Catholic Faith, but the vast collection of artistic treasures and relics housed within the cathedral and on its grounds.
The jewel of the Notre-Dame, the Crown of Thorns, was saved by Father Fournier, chaplain to the Paris firefighters. Fournier went into the burning cathedral to save the Crown and Blessed Sacrament from destruction.
— Etienne Loraillère ن (@Eloraillere) April 15, 2019
“Father Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Firefighters, went with the firefighters into Notre-Dame cathedral to save the crown of thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.”
Also saved from the blaze was the Tunic of Saint Louis IX and a collection of chalices from the cathedral’s treasury, said rector Patrick Jacquin. Only the North Rose Window was unharmed, part of a trio of immense stained glass windows dating back to the 12th century iconic to the cathedral. The West and South Rose Windows were lost to the fire.
Initial photographs of the Notre-Dame’s interior show that the centerpiece of the high altar, a sculpture depicting the descent from the Cross, remained relatively unharmed but its condition is unconfirmed.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo tweeted pictures showing works of art being carted from the cathedral:
Merci aux @PompiersParis, aux policiers et aux agents municipaux qui ont réalisé ce soir une formidable chaîne humaine pour sauver les œuvres de #NotreDame. La couronne d'épines, la tunique de Saint Louis et plusieurs autres œuvres majeures sont à présent en lieu sûr. pic.twitter.com/cbrGWCbL2N
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 15, 2019
“Thanks to @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents who realized tonight a formidable human chain to save the works of #OurDame. The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.”
France’s culture minister, Frank Riester, also tweeted pictures of the evacuation.
Les agents du @MinistereCC, épaulés par les équipes de l’archevêché, les @PompiersParis et les forces de sécurité, évacuent les œuvres se trouvant à l’intérieur de la cathédrale. Elles sont progressivement mises en sécurité. #NotreDame pic.twitter.com/iINHyUqJME
— Franck Riester (@franckriester) April 15, 2019
“@MinistereCC agents, supported by the archbishop’s teams, the @PompiersParis and the security forces, evacuate the works inside the cathedral. They are gradually made safe. #NotreDrame.”
No pipes of the Great Organ have collapsed, and while the main organ “seems to be quite affected,” the instrument should be restorable. Statues representing the 12 apostles and 4 evangelists were removed from the roof of the cathedral last week for work on the spire.
Unfortunately, the relics of the patron saints of Paris, Saints Denis and Genevieve, were lost as they were housed in the spire when it fell. Rector Monsignor Chauvet said the fate of some “sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows and liturgical art and relics — remained unclear.” The fate of a fragment of the True Cross and the Holy Nails within the Notre-Dame are also unclear.
“The large paintings, at first glance, have not been affected by the fire. But, often in these situations, there is water damage.”
You can see a full list of masterpieces housed within the cathedral on the Notre-Dame’s official website here.