PARIS — When the chaplain of the Paris Fire Department entered and race to rescue Notre-Dame, the cathedral’s roof had already been largely destroyed by flames, and the spire had fallen onto the nave.
However, many of the artworks, artefacts, and relics were still safe from the flames, so it was up to the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier to lead his colleagues through the cathedral’s numerous chapels and lanes and instruct them on which to save first.
Father Fournier Statement
“I had two priorities: to save the crown of thorns and the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Fournier said, referring to the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Days later, the chaplain has no recollection of the smoke or the heat inside the cathedral.
Father Fournier has become a key figure in the effort to save endangered artefacts from the blaze in the days following the destruction of Notre-Dame by fire.
Fire Department Strategy
Emergency personnel were prepared for the task at hand. Last year, the cathedral hosted two training sessions with the goal of preserving its treasures.
Of the 500 firefighters who responded, more than a hundred were committed to that task on Monday night when the possibility of a disaster became a terrifying reality.
The crown of thorns allegedly worn by Jesus, Saint Louis’ tunic, a piece of wood, and a nail thought to have been from the cross used in the crucifixion were among the items they saved.
Beyond the flames themselves, there were barriers. Father Fournier stated in an interview on Wednesday that “we needed keys and codes to save some of the world treasures, which I clearly didn’t have.”