FEARS are growing that one of the world’s most priceless relics – Jesus Christ’s Crown of Thorns – could have been destroyed in the Notre Dame inferno.
As the fire rages at the great cathedral in Paris, France is mourning the obliteration of one of the most prominent symbols of its national heritage.
Christians and art buffs are also devastated over the potential loss of nine centuries of masterpieces, some of which would have been too large to remove from the flames.
France’s Interior Ministry said firefighters are optimistic they can save the main structure and the building’s two bell towers, despite the steeple being destroyed.
Shocking pictures show the collapsed roof and smoke-filled interior of the iconic building just days before the Easter celebrations.
Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral.
JESUS CHRIST’S CROWN OF THORNS
Notre Dame’s most precious treasure, a relic venerated as the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ, is feared to have been badly damaged in the fire.
The Crown of Thorns, which is considered Paris’s equivalent of the Crown Jewels, is stored at the end of a nave of the cathedral, not readily visible to visitors.
It is encased in an ornate gold and glass container commissioned by Napoleon and is only brought out on Fridays during Lent and on Good Friday.
While the authenticity of the relic has not been certified, historians have dated it back to Jesus’ crucifixion.
The relic originally came from Jerusalem and was carefully placed in the nearby Sainte-Chappelle, a chapel built in the 13th century specifically for the crown.
The massive South Rose glass window is an awe-inspiring sight inside the famous cathedral.
Originally a gift from King St. Louis IX, the window was created in 1260 and is dedicated to the New Testament.
It was removed from the facade of Notre Dame during the Second World War when the French feared the Germans would target it and was replaced in the Sixties.
The cathedral’s website boasts that its three rose windows “constitute one of the great masterpieces of Christianity.”
But it is not yet know what damage the smoke and falling debris could have on the artwork.
Notre Dame is home to one of the most famous organs in the world, boasting 8,000 pipes.
The cathedral’s first organ was installed in 1403 by Friedrich Schambantz and replaced 300 years later by 1738 by François Thierry.
It was renovated and parts of it replaced every 300 or so years until the present time.
The latest restoration in the 1990s brought it to its current state, with more than 8,000 pipes.
TREASURE ROOM AND STATUES
Many of the religious relics, from communion chalices to vials of saintly blood, are kept in small Treasure Room that visitors could pay around £4 to see.
At the Mausoleum of Claude-Henry d’Harcourt, the lieutenant-general of the king’s armies who died at age 65 is captured eternally in a white marble sculpture from 1776.
In the sanctuary, there’s a statue of Madonna and Child — one of 37 representations of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral — that dates back to the 14th century.
On the western wall of the Saint-Guillaume chapel hangs one of the finest paintings in the cathedral, a masterpiece of the 18th century – the Visitation.
It was painted in 1716 by John Jouvenet.
The ‘Mays’ of Notre-Dame de Paris are large paintings that were commissioned almost every year, from 1630 to 1707.
These stunning paintings were all completed in honour of the Virgin Mary.
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The iconic cathedral was first commissioned in 1163 by King Louis VII and completed in 1345, nearly 200 years later.
It is on the Île de la Cité island in the Seine and was one of the largest buildings of its time to use what would come to be defined as Medieval Gothic architecture.
Dramatic drone pictures show the devastation caused by the savage blaze which has already laid waste to the 850-year-old church’s spire and much of its Gothic roof.
Emmanuel Gregoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages” and that emergency workers were trying to salvage the priceless pieces stored inside.
Scaffolding that had been set up around the building has been decimated along with large parts of the cathedral, including the spire, which dates back to the mid-19th Century.
French prosecutors have launched an investigation, although arson has been ruled out.
A “stray flame” linked to £5 million renovation work is thought to have sparked the inferno in the loft at around 5.30pm local time on Monday.