The crown of thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion, stained glass rose windows, one of the world‘s largest organs, and various other relics, paintings and sculptures were present at Notre Dame de Paris during the fire. Do they survive?
Paris. April 15, 2019. A few minutes before 7 p.m. The world gasped when a horrifying fire broke out in the more than 850-year-old work of medieval Gothic architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral.
The dark plume of smoke that rose for around 15 unrelenting hours into the serene skies of Paris left people across the world in tears. The fire was started during an ongoing renovation project, during Holy Week. The devastation goes down in history as one of the world’s greatest cultural tragedies. Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the most visited destinations in Paris with around 14 million visitors per year.
Notre-Dame cathedral is religiously, culturally and politically iconic for many people around the world. It has witnessed some of the most historic events such as the coronation of Henry VI of England in 1431 and the coronation of Napoleon in 1804.
Although the fire completely destroyed the iconic 90-meter-tall spire, Catholic relics, artifacts, paintings, sculptures, pipe organs and Catholic stained glass windows of historic and artistic value are also at risk. A few of the artworks were rescued by rescue workers who formed a human chain, and they have since been moved to the Louvre museum, but many of them are still unmarked and may have been charred during the fire.
It is nothing short of a miracle that the statues of the Twelve Apostles and the Four New Testament Evangelists were removed for restoration days before the fire.
Here is an overview of the art object that were present on the premises before the fire broke out.
Stained glass and rose windows
Standing as a symbol of divine influx, the cathedral’s stained glass windows have captured the imagination of generations for centuries. The south-facing circular rose window is considered one of the greatest masterpieces. Created in 1260 AD, after numerous restoration projects, restructuring the damage and the fire of 1830, today’s stained glass replaces the current artwork. Fortunately, according to reports, the glass work was prevented from completely charring.
50 “May” of Notre-Dame
The huge paintings called 50 “Mays” of Notre Dame, created in honor of the Virgin Mary, were commissioned by the Société des Orfèvres de Paris in a specific month from 1630 to 1707. Here are the paintings that were on display in the collection at start of the fire. Each name is a translation of the original French title.
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Blanchard (1634)
- Saint Peter healing the sick in his shadow by Laurent de la Hyre (1635)
- The Conversion of Saint Paul by Lawrence de Hyre (1637)
- The Cornelius Centenary at the Feet of Saint-Pierre by AubinVouet (1639)
- The Preaching of Saint Peter in Jerusalem by Charles Poerson (1642)
- The Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Sébastien Bourdon (1643)
- The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew by Charles Le Brun (1647)
- Saint Paul blinds the false prophet Barjesu and converts the proconsul Sergius by Nicolas Loir (1650)
- The Stoning of Saint Stephen by Charles Le Brun (1651)
- The Flagellation of Saint Paul and Silas by Louis Testelin (1655)
- Saint Andrew quivers with joy at the sight of his torture by Gabriel Blanchard (1670)
- The Prophet Agabus predicting to Saint Paul his sufferings in Jerusalem by Louis Cheron (1687)
- The son of Sceva vanquished by the demon by Matthieu Elyas (1702)
- The Visitation of Jean Jouvenet (1716)
- Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fountain of Wisdom by Antoine Nicolas (1648)
Sculptures of the Virgin Mary
Among the statues and structures inside the cathedral is the famous Notre Dame of Paris, which is a Madonna with a child. The rest of the 36 performances include:
- Enclosure of the Choir by Pierre de Chelle, Jean Ravy and Jean Le Bouteiller (1300 to 1350)
- Mausoleum of Count Harcourt by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1776)
- Saint Therese of the Child Jesus by Louis Castex (1934)
- Statue of Saint Anthony by the Sisters of Bethlehem Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy in Mougères (2013)
The great organ
A musical marvel built in 1869, The great organ, one of the largest organs in the world, consists of five manuals and about 8000 pipes. This was last renovated in 1992. The man-made wonder is accompanied by two other much smaller organs. According to a report by The week, “There have been conflicting reports about the ‘well-being’ of the organ after the fire.
Crown of thorns
Believed to have been placed on the head of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, the crown is said to have been purchased by King Louis IX of France in 1239. It is considered the most sacred relic of Notre-Dame. Although Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire confirmed the salvage of the crown, reports of other important relics, such as a nail and a fragment of a cross believed to have been part of Jesus’ crucifixion, are still missing.
Notre-Dame Cathedral had ten bells, the oldest of which is that of Emmanuel. Weighing 13 tons, it is one of the original bells of the work. In the 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame of Victor Hugo, the character of Quasimodo is a ringer of bells by profession. The fate of the cathedral bells is still unclear.
Various world leaders and celebrities around the world are mourning the loss on social media.
It is certainly a huge loss for human civilization. But we hope that this dark tunnel gives way to a bright ray of light. As the world unites to breathe new life into the cathedral, we hope Notre-Dame will rise from its ashes. Because isn’t that what we humans are? About resurrecting us every time?
With contributions from Associated Press
(Cover image courtesy of Dezeen)