A Human Chain Formed to Save Crown of Thorns, Other Priceless Relics From the Notre Dame Fire

Notre Dame Cathedral on Fire
Flames on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15. Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Amid the stories of disaster and devastation after the fire at the Notre Dame de Paris, a bit of good news has arrived.

The cathedral held some of the Christian faith's most important relics, including a replica of the crown of thorns, which Jesus Christ is said to have worn during his crucifixion by the Romans, along with a nail and a piece of wood that are said to have been used for the cross on which he died.

According to a New York Times report, the crown of thorns was also believed to include pieces of the cross used in the crucifixion.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted on Monday night that members of the Paris fire brigade, the city's police department and others formed a human chain to pass the crown of thorns and other relics out of the cathedral as the fire burned.

"Thank you to the @PompiersParis, policemen and municipal agents who made a tremendous human chain to save the works of #NotreDame. The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place," she said, including a photo of several items that appear to have been taken from the cathedral.

Merci aux @PompiersParis, aux policiers et aux agents municipaux qui ont réalisé ce soir une formidable chaîne humaine pour sauver les œuvres de #NotreDame. La couronne d'épines, la tunique de Saint Louis et plusieurs autres œuvres majeures sont à présent en lieu sûr. pic.twitter.com/cbrGWCbL2N

— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 15, 2019

As reports of the fire circulated around the world, many expressed concern about the artifacts and work housed inside the building. While it is still uncertain if any artwork or other relics were consumed in the blaze, a French journalist, Nicolas Delesalle, said on Twitter that all the artwork had been saved.

"Good news: all the works of art were saved. The treasure of the Cathedral is intact, the Crown of thorns, the Holy Sacraments. #NOTRE_DAME,' Delesalle said.

Une bonne nouvelle : toutes les œuvres d’art ont été sauvées. Le trésor de la cathédrale est intact, la couronne d’épines, les saints sacrements. #NOTRE_DAME

— Nicolas Delesalle (@KoliaDelesalle) April 15, 2019

Monsignor Patrick Chauvet confirmed on Monday that the crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several chalices were safe, but he did not mention the wood and nail from Christ's cross or any other items.

Sixteen statues representing the Apostles and four others that are usually housed in the cathedral's spire, which collapsed during Monday's fire, escaped the flames. They were removed days earlier as part of an ongoing renovation project for Notre Dame and sent to be cleaned and repaired in southern France.

While it is unknown what started the fire, some officials told reporters on scene that it could be linked to the renovation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The date of other pieces of art—including the famous rose windows—are unknown at this time. Note Dame also houses an organ that was built in the Middle Ages and over 70 paintings of the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles originate from the 1600s and 1700s.

Of those paintings, one created in the 1600s of St. Thomas Aquinas and Jean Jouvenet's The Visitation, depicting angels visiting the Virgin Mary, are considered among the most famous pieces in Notre Dame. Jouvenet's painting is one of a series that illustrate scenes from Mary's life.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that France will work to rebuild the cathedral. "We will rebuild Notre Dame because it is what the French expect of us, it is what our history deserves, it is, in the deepest sense, our destiny."

In his address to the country, Marcon added that a campaign to raise funds to rebuild the cathedral will begin on Tuesday. French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of the company that oversees luxury fashion labels Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has pledged 100 million euros to the effort.

"My father (François Pinault) and I have decided to release a sum of 100 million euros to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre Dame," Pinault wrote in a statement released by French media.

Crown of Thorns — Notre Dame
A priest holds the Crown of Thorns as the relic of the passion of Christ is presented to faithfuls at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 14, 2017. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

This article was updated to correct a misspelling.