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Notre Dame Fire: The Treasures Now At Risk From the Flames

The Daily Beast logo The Daily Beast 4/15/2019 By (Barbie Latza Nadeau)
a person standing in front of a building: Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast Alamy

As a fire rages at the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France is mourning the destruction of one of the most prominent symbols of its national heritage—and Christians and art buffs the world over are lamenting the potential loss of a thousand years of history and faith. While it's unclear at the moment which treasures from inside Notre Dame may survive the flames, here are some of the cathedral's most famous artworks, Catholic relics, and architectural gems that are now in peril:

High Altar

Among the treasures inside the famous Cathedral, where every day Parisians celebrate weddings, funerals and baptisms, is the high altar with a Nicolas Coustou painting of the Descent from the Cross from 1723.

a glass of wine in front of a building: The high altar and inner cloister of Notre Dame in Paris, France. Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast The high altar and inner cloister of Notre Dame in Paris, France. Alamy

Treasure Room

Many of the religious relics, from communion chalices to vials of saintly blood, are kept in small Treasure Room that visitors could pay around $5 to see.

a kitchen with wooden cabinets and a fireplace: Treasure Room in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast Treasure Room in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. Alamy

Easter Trilogy

While they are not authenticated, and many Catholic churches around the world have similar relics, Notre Dame takes pride in its three Easter relics. Part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, some nails that were used to affix him to the cross and part of the crown of thorns he wore are kept inside the Cathedral and used for Easter celebrations. The relics likely would have likely been out for Holy Week, which began on Palm Sunday, the day before the fire broke out. The only day visitors are allowed to see the crown of thorns is on Good Friday.

Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast Alamy

Reliquary that Houses Crown of Thorns

The ornate reliquary commissioned by Napoleon that houses the crown of thorns is, in itself, a work of art but is only brought out on Fridays during Lent and on Good Friday.


The hundreds of grotesque gargoyles of Notre Dame may well survive the fire. They are there as both rain spouts to channel the water from the roof and as symbolism used by the Catholic Church to depict evil and keep evil spirits away with equally evil creations. They were added in the 13th century.  

Flying Buttresses

About 80 years into construction, builders noted fissures on the high stone walls and incorporated flying buttresses to balance the pressure and let light into the dark cathedral.

Rose Window

The massive rose-shaped stained glass window was removed from the facade of Notre Dame during World War II when the French feared the Germans would target it. It was replaced in the 1960s.

a large clock mounted to the side of a building: Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast Alamy

Grand Organ

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.

a close up of a organ: Alamy © Provided by The Daily Beast Alamy

Twelve Apostle Statues Around Spire

During the first restoration of the cathedral, some 450 years after it was built, Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc sculpted the 12 apostles in copper looking out over the city of Paris circling the 300-foot spire. These statues were rarely seen up close, but were postcard staples and now lay at the bottom of the cathedral with the collapsed spire.

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