On April 15, 2019, shortly before 18:50 CEST, a fire broke out in the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Investigation revealed that the fire alarm broke out two times, but the first time, firefighters on the spot couldn’t locate the fire. The fire was extinguished the following day, some 12 hours later. But the fire did severe damage to one of the oldest cathedrals in the world. With more than 13 million visitors per year, the Notre-Dame is one of the most popular attractions in Paris.
There are many precious relics inside the Cathedral, but which ones of them survived the fire. Here is a quick list.
Arguably one of the most precious relics in the world, not just in Notre-Dame. The original crown of Thorns that Jesus is said to have worn was safely kept in Notre-Dame. Significant to Christians, the crown is still taken out on the first Friday of every month for people to come see. The practice is a way for people to share in that memory of the extraordinary example of humility.
Because it is Holy Week, with Good Friday approaching, the crown was out of the cathedral during the fire. The crown, now encased in a glass tube and decorated with gold, will probably be placed in another Cathedral for the time being, while Notre-Dame waits its restoration.
The Notre-Dame cathedral has three rose windows dating back to the 13th century. They are among the most famous features of Notre Dame. The first is the smallest one, and it is located on the west façade. It is celebrated for the way the glass seemingly upheld the stonework around it. The south rose window has a diameter of 43 feet and is made of more than 80 panels.
While the roof has been completely ruined, the rose windows have survived. Much of the glass has survived and looked more than salvageable. Rose windows are still in remarkable condition, considering what they have been exposed to. They were not touched by the fire, but there are still fears for them because of the fragility of the building.
Another priceless artifact that survived the fire is the tunic of St. Louis. It is believed that it belonged to Louis IX, king of France from 1226 to 1270. He died on a crusade in Algeria. He was canonized in 1297, and his tunic was revered as a relic. Louis IX is the only French King to be declared a saint, and he was often considered the model of the ideal Christian monarch.
Many of his successors were named Louis.
In what is said to be a sign of hope, the cathedral’s altar and golden cross are still intact amid the scorched debris from the blaze. Photos show they are both still standing along with many of the surrounding statues.
Organists around the world have long coveted the chance to play on the iconic Great Organ in Notre-Dame. According to church officials, there was a two-and-a-half-year waiting list for the Organ before the fire. The Great organ has five keyboards and almost 8,000 pipes. With that, it is the largest of the cathedral’s three such instruments. While it escaped destruction, the organ could have been damaged by the dust, water, and debris.
One of the more famous statues, the one representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists survived the fire as well. This statue once graced the top of the cathedral. But they were removed last week as part of the restoration effort. Currently, the statue is stored in Perigueux in southwestern France.
There 10 bells in the cathedral, each one named after a saint. They were immortalized in the classic Victor Hugo novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. The bells itself have undergone their own rebirth. In 2012, they were melted down and recast to restore their tones. Original bells, however, were not replaced.
Largest bell is the Emmanuel, which weighs more than 23 tons. Emmanuel was installed in the south tower in 1685.
Each of the large 10 bells was blessed with the name of a saint to replicate the original bells that were melted for cannon balls during the French Revolution.
Saint Denis was a legendary 3rd century Christian martyr and saint. He was bishop of Paris in the third century, and was decapitated along with his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius. The statue of St. Denis, “Preaching the Faith”, was done by Baroque French sculptor Nicolas Coustou. Luckily, the statue was in the north transept inside the cathedral during the fire and is safe.
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