More than simply an iconic cathedral and jewel of Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame de Paris was a treasure trove, housing priceless and irreplaceable marvels of immense religious, artistic, musical, historical and architectural value.
Some were lost to humanity forever in a blaze that ravaged the Paris cathedral on Monday. Others were spared, at least in part, or saved before the flames consumed the roof and spire.
A look at what is known about Notre Dame’s treasures and their fate.
CROWN OF THORNS
Regarded as the cathedral’s most sacred relic, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that the Crown of Thorns was saved.
It is purported to be a relic of the crown placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, obtained and transported to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century.
It is made of rushes wrapped into a wreath and tied with gold filament. Since 1896 it has been kept under glass and only occasionally displayed.
Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said that it was among pieces quickly transported to a “secret location” by officials after the fire.
Hidalgo said on Twitter that the tunic of Saint Louis, a long shirt-like garment from the 13th century and believed to have belonged to King Louis IX, was also rescued.
CROSS PIECE AND NAIL
The 24cm piece of wood and 9cm-long nail are purported to be from the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
The wood fragment is kept in a glass case. The fate of the two relics is not known.
The impressive organ dating to the 1730s and boasting an estimated 8,000 pipes did not burn and is intact, but nobody knows yet whether it was damaged by the heat or water.
“The organ is a very fragile instrument,” said Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the Fondation du Patrimoine, which protects France’s cultural heritage.
The organ has “incredible” sound, with “very rich colors,” and there is a waiting list of more than two years of organists wanting to play it, he said.
The cathedral’s roof was built using a lattice of giant beams cut from trees in primeval forests in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Experts have said that France no longer has trees big enough to replace the ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre-Dame fire.
De Feydeau told France Info radio that the cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire, because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”
The restoration work would have to use new technology to rebuild the roof, he said.
The cathedral’s three famed rose windows date to the 13th century.
It is too early to tell whether they survived unscathed, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.
Azoulay told reporters that art experts have not yet been able to assess the site yet after the blaze, although she has received encouraging reports.
About a dozen large paintings of religious scenes, called “Mays” and dating from between 1630 and 1708, hung in Notre-Dame.
French Minister of Culture Franck Riester said that the cathedral’s greatest paintings would be removed starting tomorrow.
“We assume they have not been damaged by the fire, but there may be damage from the smoke,” he said.
Last week, 16 religious statues got a lucky escape from Monday’s blaze: They were removed from the top of Notre-Dame for the first time in more than a century to be taken for cleaning.