Updated 7:15 a.m. ET April 16, 2019: A human chain of firefighters, formed even as flames were consuming the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, saved priceless works of art and religious relics Monday, including the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ as he was crucified.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed that “The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works (of art) are now in a safe place.”
According to the cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, firefighters worked to save the cathedral’s artwork, and continued pulling items from the building as burning embers and melted metal fell.
The status of some of the building's artwork and a few of the relics housed there is still unknown, Paris authorities say. The cathedral’s grand organ “seems to be quite affected,” according to Franck Riester, France’s culture minister. The organ is centuries old and is renowned throughout Europe.
Original story: As the world watches the Cathedral of Notre Dame engulfed in flames, the fate of relics from the centuries-old Christian Church is in question.
The cathedral, known as “The Forest” because of the massive wooden beams used to construct one of the grandest examples of Gothic architecture in the world, is home to several relics purported to be connected to Jesus Christ’s final hours on Earth.
Believed to be in the cathedral, a World Heritage Site, when the fire broke out are:
The crown of thorns: While the authenticity of the relic has not been certified, the purported crown of thorns – a braided circle of canes that according to Scripture, was placed on the head of Jesus Christ as he was tried by Pontius Pilot before his crucifixion – is kept in the cathedral. The crown is encased in an ornage gold and glass reliquary commissioned by Napoleon. The crown is only brought out on Fridays during Lent and on Good Friday. This Friday is Good Friday. Easter is Sunday.
Stone from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher: A stone said to be from the site where Jesus Christ was crucified.
A piece of the cross: Another relic from Jesus’ Passion held in the cathedral is a purported piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified upon.
Nails from the cross: The church also says to have some of the nails used to nail Jesus to the cross.
Representations of the Virgin Mary: There are 37 representations of the Virgin Mary in Notre Dame.
This cross-section view of Notre Dame, by British illustrator Stephen Biesty, gives some sense of what's underneath the flames and smoke at the cathedral. https://t.co/hbqWAfRdOj pic.twitter.com/8QagSroVNu— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) April 15, 2019
The great organ: The largest organ in France and one of the most famous in the world. The organ dates from 1401. Some of the Medieval pipes remained in the building.
The Emmanuel Bell: A 15th century bell called the Emmanuel Bell, has been rung for centuries to make major events in France and in the world. It rang on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York were demolished in terrorist attacks. Emmanuel is one of 10 bells in the cathedral. It weighs 13 tons.
Artwork: There are paintings in the nave of the church, some dating from the 1600s such as “The Visitation.”
Sculptures: There are more than 30 sculptures in the building, including the statue of Madonna and Child.
What could be the only good news to come from the tragic fire is that, according to The Associated Press, religious statues that set atop the cathedral were taken down last week for the first time in over a century as part of a restoration of the church’s towering spire.
Statues representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists were removed from the site last week. onto a truck, giving the public a ground-level look for the first time on Thursday.
AT least these statues of 12 apostles and four evangelists from #NotreDame Cathedral were saved. Last week, they were removed for cleaning. Photos from AP https://t.co/ElZRzHzZte pic.twitter.com/FOQwQhJcuY— Al Tompkins (@atompkins) April 15, 2019
Windows: The cathedral’s three “rose” stained-glass windows, have been spared, according to reports. The windows are the centerpiece of the building’s collection of stained glass.