The Chaplain, the Cathedral Fire and the Race to Rescue Notre-Dame’s Relics – The New York Times

There were obstacles beyond the fire itself. “We needed keys and codes to save some of the world treasures, which I clearly didn’t have,” Father Fournier said in an interview on Wednesday.

The crown of thorns, for example, which the cathedral calls its “most precious and most venerated relic,” was locked in a chest.

While Father Fournier ran to look for the keys, some of his fellow firefighters opted for a more direct approach: They broke open the chest, and carried the crown to the cathedral entrance, where police officers watched over the rescued artifacts.

Then workers from the city and the church, along with emergency workers, ferried the artworks away by making what the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called “a formidable human chain.”

Inside Notre-Dame, Father Fournier and the other firefighters worked to remove a painting depicting the Virgin and Child. He covered two of the cathedral’s models, and later helped rescue a handful of other artworks and icons.

As the chaplain began removing a statue of Jesus, he said, his colleagues were fighting the fire from the cathedral’s towers. The flames had started to threaten the wooden structure around the belfry — putting the whole cathedral at even greater risk.

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