Apr 16, 2019

Notre Dame fire: Which artifacts were saved and lost

Religious artifacts were saved from Notre Dame are stored in a room of the Paris City Hall. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

In the aftermath of a fire that engulfed the upper part of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame on Monday, the status of many of the cathedral's artifacts are uncertain.

What's new: As of Tuesday morning, NPR reported that it will be 48 hours until firefighters can enter the cathedral and save large paintings and artworks. The cathedral’s greatest paintings will be removed starting Friday, according to Franck Riester, France’s culture minister.

The big picture: These priceless relics are fundamentally intertwined with the history of France itself. The tunic of Saint Louis dates back to the 13th century. The crown of thorns, which Christians believe was placed on Jesus Christ's head at crucifixion, was brought to Paris by French King Louis IX in the 13th century. Several pipes in the church's Great Organ are more than 800 years old.

What was saved

The crown of thorns: One of Notre Dame's most prized relics was successfully removed from the cathedral via a firefighter human chain and is currently in Paris City Hall, the New York Times reports.

The tunic of Saint Louis: The tunic is also currently stored in Paris City Hall, according to Riester. Louis XIV is said to have worn this tunic when he brought the crown of thorns to Notre Dame.

The twin bell towers: The fire did not create lasting damage to the bell towers after firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading to its northern belfry.

The rose windows: Benoist de Sinety, a bishop of the Archdiocese of Paris, said on Monday that high heat melted the lead that held the three windows' panes in place, the New York Times reports. Despite these damages, the Archbishop of Paris said all three windows were saved, according to CNN affiliate BFM TV.

The Great Organ: None of the pipes have collapsed, Riester reported. But he added that the main organ "seems to be quite affected,” per the NYT. Organ builder Bertrand Cattiaux, who said the instrument looks restorable at first glance, plans to visit and inspect the structure in a few days.

Rooftop sculptures: Statues representing the 12 apostles and 4 evangelists were removed from the roof of the cathedral last week for a restoration project on the now-collapsed spire, the AP reports.

What was lost

"The forest:" Notre Dame's wooden latticework roof, made of hundreds of oak beams cut from trees between 1160 and 1170, was mostly destroyed by the fire. "The forest" was one of the oldest structural elements of the cathedral.

Notre Dame's spire: The cathedral's spire collapsed and fell through the cathedral's roof soon after the fire began. The spire was built in the 19th century amid a renewed restoration effort.

What's unconfirmed

The Gallery of the Kings: That status of this collection, which includes statues of Old Testament kings that were sculpted in the 13th century and later beheaded in 1793, remain unclear as of Tuesday morning, the NYT reports.

Relics of St. Denis and St. Genevieve: The bones, teeth or hair of these patron saints of Paris were held in the now-collapsed spire of the cathedral.

Other Christian artifacts: Notre Dame also held a nail believed to have been used in the crucifixion and a piece of wood believed to be a piece of the cross.

The bottom line: Specifics on how various Notre Dame artifacts were affected by smoke, water or other materials like melted lead are still largely unknown. French billionaires and corporations have pledged more than $680 million as of Tuesday morning to help Notre Dame rebuild.

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