The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is home to scores of priceless artifacts, artwork and relics collected over the centuries, each with their own story.
A “forest” of wooden latticework fueled the blaze which consumed the building’s roof, whose framework dates back to the 13th century, according to Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, the cathedral’s rector.
The Paris Fire Brigade tweeted that the cathedral’s stone construction has been “saved,” as have the “main works of art.” As more information emerges, what has been rescued from Notre Dame is becoming apparent.
Yet many details, such as possible water damage from the operation to save the building, are still unclear.
What was saved
• The Crown of Thorns, which some believe was placed on the head of Jesus and which the cathedral calls its “most precious and most venerated relic,” was rescued from the fire, according to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
• Hidalgo confirmed the Tunic of Saint Louis and other “major” works were also saved.
• The facade and twin bell towers, the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in the late 19th century, survived the blaze.
The North tower was completed in 1240 and the South tower in 1250.
• The cathedral’s main bell, Emanuelle, lives in the South tower. It has marked significant moments in French history, such as the end of World War II, as well as holidays and special occasions.
• The Rose windows are a trio of immense round stained-glass windows over the cathedral’s three main portals that date back to the 13th century. The Archbishop of Paris said all three have been saved, reports CNN affiliate BFM TV.
• The original Great Organ, one of the world’s most famous musical instruments, dates back to medieval times. Over the years, organ makers renovated the instrument and added onto it, but it still contained pipes from the Middle Ages before Monday’s fire.
The position of titular organist, or head organist, carries great prestige in France and around the world. The Archbishop of Paris confirmed the organ is safe, reports CNN affiliate BFM TV.
Fate of other artifacts unconfirmed
“We managed to protect the most precious treasures in a safe place,” a Paris City Hall spokesperson told CNN.
However it has not been confirmed whether individual items such as a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails were saved.
• There were also numerous sculptures, statues and paintings inside the cathedral depicting Biblical scenes and saints.
One series of 76 paintings, each nearly four meters tall, commemorates the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles, including the crucifixion of St. Peter and the conversion of St. Paul. The works were completed between 1630 and 1707 by the members or associates of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
Another painting is from a series by Jean Jouvenet depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. All six from the series used to be in the cathedral. They were moved to the Louvre in the 1860s, and only “The Visitation” was returned to Notre Dame.
A portrait from 1648 of St. Thomas Aquinas also graced the cathedral’s interiors.
• It is not yet clear how much damage there is to the cathedral’s exterior, where a menagerie of menacing gargoyles and chimeras stand guard and a system of flying buttresses support the outside walls.
A Paris police source told CNN that part of the vault has collapsed in the central nave, and architects are checking whether the structure is stable.
• The cathedral also has an archaeological crypt under the courtyard. It was created to protect 19th-century relics that were discovered during excavations in 1965. It opened to the public in 1980.