Notre-Dame: Revered Art work and Relics Threatened by Fireplace


The fireplace that destroyed two-thirds of the roof of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris on Monday did greater than harm a beloved historic landmark: It additionally endangered the huge assortment of Christian relics and paintings housed each inside the constructing and on its grounds.

One of many cathedral’s most treasured treasures — a relic of the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ on the time of his crucifixion — was saved from the flames, in response to the rector of the cathedral, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet.

However the situation of lots of its different treasures — together with sculptures, work, stained glass home windows and liturgical artwork and relics — remained unclear, Monsignor Chauvet mentioned. He mentioned the primary threats to the paintings had been hearth, smoke harm and falling materials like melted lead.

Bernard Fonquernie, who labored in cathedral administration from 1978 to 2001, mentioned water used to struggle the hearth might additionally harm its stonework and no matter wooden survived the blaze.

Listed here are a number of the treasures about which students and the non secular devoted are most involved.

Among the many most prized relics at Notre-Dame is a relic of the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ through the crucifixion. Stephen Murray, a professor emeritus of Gothic structure and medieval artwork at Columbia College, mentioned the crown at Notre-Dame purportedly accommodates fragments of the unique artifact.

The cathedral additionally accommodates a chunk of wooden believed to be a chunk of the cross and a nail believed to have been used within the crucifixion.

“Most of those nice cathedrals turn out to be vacation spot factors by way of the treasury, what they maintain that you would be able to come and worship or that you would be able to come and see,” mentioned Nora Heimann, a professor of artwork historical past on the Catholic College of America.

Monsignor Chauvet mentioned Monday that the crown of thorns was in protected arms. He mentioned the tunic of Saint Louis, a non secular relic, and a set of chalices held within the cathedral’s treasury had additionally been saved.

It was unclear what occurred to the piece of wooden and the nail some imagine to have been used within the crucifixion.

The cathedral is devoted to the Virgin Mary, from whom the church takes its title, which suggests “Our Girl of Paris,” Ms. Heimann mentioned.

The cathedral accommodates three rose home windows whose stained-glass panes, formed like flower petals, every inform a non secular story, together with scenes from the Outdated and New Testaments, tales from the lives of the Twelve Apostles, and the resurrection of Christ.

“While you’re going through the cathedral, there’s a huge window dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the rose window, and he or she is within the middle of it, enthroned,” Ms. Heimann mentioned.

The standing of the three home windows was unclear on Monday, however the prognosis appeared troubling. Benoist de Sinety, a bishop of the Archdiocese of Paris, mentioned excessive warmth had broken the home windows, melting the lead that held their panes in place.

The spire of the cathedral, which collapsed on Monday, contained the relics of St. Denis and St. Genevieve, the patron saints of Paris. Laurent Ferri, a curator within the Uncommon and Manuscript Collections at Cornell College, mentioned an archbishop positioned them there in 1935 to guard the constructing.

In response to legend, St. Denis, a third-century Christian martyr, was decapitated and died later whereas carrying his personal head. St. Genevieve is usually credited with saving Paris through the use of the ability of group prayer to divert Attila, king of the Huns, away from town in 451.

Gregory Bryda, an assistant professor of Western medieval artwork and structure at Barnard, mentioned the relics included bones, tooth or hair from each saints.

The cathedral homes an vital assortment of statues, together with the imposing stone figures of Outdated Testomony kings that stand above the doorway. It’s referred to as the Gallery of the Kings.

The standing of these statues was unclear on Monday evening. However they’ve been by way of laborious occasions earlier than.

In the course of the French Revolution, forces hostile to the monarchy mistook the statues for kings of France, not Historic Judea. Pushed by revolutionary zeal, they dragged the statues into Cathedral Sq. and beheaded them utilizing a guillotine in 1793.

Twenty‐a kind of heads, which had been sculpted within the 13th century, had been found in 1977 inside a wall in one other neighborhood of Paris, in response to a report on the time in The New York Instances.

However a sacred area is greater than the sum of its elements. Ms. Heimann mentioned “the church itself is its personal treasure as a result of it’s a place of a lot historical past.”

The grounds had been as soon as the positioning of an Historic Roman temple that grew to become a church after the Roman Empire embraced Christianity. Development on the cathedral started in 1163 and was accomplished in 1345.

“It’s a place that single-handedly tells us the story of Paris and of France itself and its evolution,” Ms. Heimann mentioned. “I don’t assume there’s anyone factor inside it that’s extra useful than the factor as an entire. And I say that as an artwork historian that weeps for that misplaced artwork.”

Moreover the work, structure and statues, students additionally pointed to the cathedral’s musical devices as an endangered paintings. That features the church bells — the biggest of which date to 1681 — which had been rung at vital moments in French historical past, together with the French Revolution and each world wars.

Dr. Murray mentioned one of many biggest treasures within the cathedral was a pipe organ often called the Nice Organ.

“It was an impressive instrument,” he mentioned. “I doubt if it survived.”

It was unclear what occurred to the bells or the organ on Monday. However Bishop de Sinety mentioned the hearth had badly broken the organ too.

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