Notre Dame Fire: Famed Stained-Glass Windows Spared, But Fate of Some Relics Unknown

April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

After an immense blaze consumed the Notre Dame cathedral, it took 400 firefighters some 12 hours to quell the flames. In the disaster, the 850-year-old Paris landmark lost its spire and part of its roof to the flames. But as luck would have it, its iconic stained-glass rose windows reportedly survived the fire.

The Archbishop of Paris told BFM TV that all three medieval rose windows on the west, north, and south sides from the 12th and 13th centuries were still intact. Some other stained glass windows were damaged, but they were much newer, said the Archbishop.

The rose windows were designed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil and made of numerous colored glass panels, according to the Notre Dame website. Two of the windows measure about 43 feet in diameter.

“The three Rose windows of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris constitute one of the greatest masterpieces of Christianity,” the cathedral’s website said.

Art specialists say that even though they have survived they have yet to see the extent of the damage the windows have sustained.

“It seems they have not been destroyed for now, although we’ll have to see what real state they’re in, and whether they can be restored properly,” Maxime Cumunel, secretary general of France’s Observatory for Religious Heritage, told Reuters.

“We have avoided a complete disaster. But some five to 10 percent of the artwork has probably been destroyed, we have to face up to that,” he added.

Notre Dame
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019, in the aftermath of a fire that caused its spire to crash to the ground. (Stephanie de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

He said four 17th and 18th-century paintings depicting scenes from the lives of the apostles had been partially damaged. Meanwhile, Culture Minister Franck Riester said the paintings were mainly affected by the smoke than the flames, reported the wire.

Along with the rose windows, the original great organ—one of the world’s well-known instruments—has also been reported safe, according to BFM TV.

As the fire consumed the cathedral, emergency services formed a “human chain” to pull other artifacts and artwork from the burning building, according to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, reported The Sun.

“The Crown of Thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place,” Hidalgo said.

But the fate of some of the relics are still known including a piece of the cross which Jesus Christ is believed to have been nailed to, one of the nails, a fragment of the Crown of Thorns—the wreath itself has been recovered—and relics from Saint-Denis and Saint Genevieve, reported the New York Post.

rescued items from Notre Dame
The Paris Hotel de Ville shows some of the artworks of Notre Dame de Paris rescued from the fire as the blaze devastated the cathedral, on April 16, 2019. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

It was reported earlier that the most cherished Crown of Thorns—a wreath of thorns believed to be placed on Jesus Christ’s head at his crucifixion—and the Blessed Sacrament were rescued from the burning cathedral by the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, Jean-Marc Fournier.

Fournier has been hailed a hero after he risked his life by rushing into the Notre Dame to save the irreplaceable relics.

“Father Fournier is an absolute hero,” a member of the emergency services told Irish radio station NewsTalk.

“He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

The Crown of Thorns, which has been the object of Christian prayer for more than sixteen centuries, was brought to Paris by French King Louis IX in 1239. The previous artifact is contained in an intricate gold case and is placed in the cathedral’s treasury, which is only occasionally displayed to the public, according to the radio station.

A priest wipes the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of Christ- at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 14, 2017. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A massive blaze broke out at the 850-year-old cathedral as it was undergoing renovations on April 15, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world.

The blaze engulfed the cathedral’s spire, causing it to collapse and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. Fortunately, firefighters managed to stop the fire from spreading to the northern belfry, according to Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet.

altar in notre dame
Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on April 15, 2019 (Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images)

The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Paris prosecutors said they will investigate the incident as “involuntary destruction caused by fire” and have ruled our arson and terror-related motives, reported Fox News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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