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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Holes are seen in the dome inside the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday as firefighters declared success in extinguishing the blaze.

  • File The Crown of Thorns kept at Notre Dame Cathedral was saved from damage in the fire along with other items.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 1:00 am

Many of cathedral's treasures saved

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France's wealthy pledge to help

Late Monday, President Emmanuel Macron called for Notre Dame to be rebuilt. And almost immediately, some of France's wealthiest families pledged their support. Bernaud Arnault, Europe's richest man and the chief executive of the LVMH luxury conglomerate, pledged 200 million euros ($225.7 million); François Pinault, another luxury magnate, pledged 100 million euros.

The estimated costs for renovating the cathedral are currently estimated at $180 million.

But the donation pledges from wealthy private sources led to some criticism of the French state, which some felt should shoulder more of the burden to preserve such an important piece of national and religious cultural heritage.

In the words of Olivier Gabet, the director of Paris's Musée des Arts décoratifs: “If Notre Dame is a symbol of France, of its history, of its art, it is also the property of the state. In that sense, if we can only rejoice in the generosity of great donors, we could only be proud that the State undertakes to finance this restoration fully, in these troubled times.”

– Washington Post

System links 9/11 facts to fire video

YouTube might need a few more humans. The machines whose job is to tamp down conspiracy theories are not cutting it just yet.

As people around the world Monday turned to YouTube to watch Notre Dame Cathedral burn in Paris, an automated system attached background information about the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York to livestream videos of the fire.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined, but authorities said it appeared to be accidental, not arson or terrorism.

The background note was posted by a system YouTube recently put in place to combat well-known conspiracies about such events as the moon landing or 9/11. In this case, the algorithm might have had the opposite effect, fueling speculation about the cause of the fire and who might be behind it.

– Associated Press

PARIS – There was little time to waste. The wood-and-lead roof was a crackling inferno overhead. The flames were now snaking down though the majestic woodwork inside the Notre Dame cathedral.

Very soon – just minutes maybe – the fire would begin threatening the artwork, liturgical items and priceless religious relics tucked throughout the warrens and alcoves of the cathedral.

Firefighters rushed in, looking for whatever they could grab and carry to safety, according to accounts by Paris officials and French media.

The fire department chaplain – his glasses reflecting the orange flames – demanded to join them.

Then a human chain took shape, Paris' deputy mayor for tourism and sports, Jean-Francois Martins, told “CBS This Morning.” It included Parisian officials, church caretakers, and the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier, the fire chaplain who, hours earlier, had been preparing events for Easter week.

“We have avoided a complete disaster,” said Maxime Cumunel, secretary general of France's Observatory for Religious Heritage. But he told the Reuters news agency that perhaps “5 to 10% of the artwork has probably been destroyed.”

“We have to face up to that,” he said.

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 says 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 brought 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 it was among pieces quickly transported to a “secret location” by officials after the fire.

Etienne Loraillère, the editor of France's KTO Catholic television network, said the chaplain Fournier had a key role in saving the crown of thorns and other items. Fornier had been a military chaplain who served in Afghanistan, and in 2015 comforted survivors after a rampage at the Bataclan theater and northern Paris in which 130 people were killed.

Hidalgo also said on Twitter that the tunic of St. Louis, a long shirt-like garment from the 13th century and believed to have belonged to King Louis IX, was also rescued.

Fragment of the holy cross and nail

The 9.45-inch piece of wood and 3.5-inch-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 organ

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,” Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of the Fondation du Patrimoine which protects France's cultural heritage, tells The Associated Press.

He says 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. Each pipe was individually cleaned during a 2013 refurbishment.

The roof

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 say France no longer has trees big enough to replace the ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire.

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.” He said the restoration work will have to use new technology to rebuild the roof.

The bells

In the wake of the French Revolution, the cathedral was declared a “Temple of Reason” as part of an anti-clerical movement. All of the original bells were destroyed and replaced – except for one, called Emmanuel and weighing 13 tons. In 2013, as the cathedral celebrated its 850 years with a refurbishment, nine huge new bells replaced the 19th-century ones. The peal of the cathedral's bells has long been famous. Quasimodo was the cathedral's bell-ringer in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The extent of any damage to the bells and their support structure is unclear.

Paintings

About a dozen large paintings of religious scenes, called “Mays” and dating from between 1630 and 1708, hung in Notre Dame. French Culture Minister Franck Riester says the cathedral's greatest paintings will be removed starting Friday. “We assume they have not been damaged by the fire but there may be damage from the smoke,” he said.

Statues

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 over a century to be taken for cleaning. The removal was part of a restoration of the cathedral's towering spire, now gone. The 10-foot-tall copper statues represent the 12 apostles and four evangelists.

Stained glass

The cathedral's three famed rose windows date to the 13th century. The director of the United Nations cultural organization says it's too early to tell whether they are unscathed.

Audrey Azoulay tells The Associated Press art experts haven't yet been able to assess the site yet after the blaze, though she has received encouraging reports. Notre Dame is part of a UNESCO heritage site.