A priest at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the city's mayor said that the priceless artworks and artifacts inside have been saved after much of the legendary building was destroyed in a fire Monday.
French journalist Nicolas Delesalle of Paris Match reported on Twitter that "all the artworks have been saved. The treasure of the cathedral is intact" including the crown of thorns and holy sacraments. He cited a Father Frederic, who has been a priest at the cathedral for two years.
Une bonne nouvelle : toutes les œuvres d’art ont été sauvées. Le trésor de la cathédrale est intact, la couronne d’épines, les saints sacrements. #NOTRE_DAME— Nicolas Delesalle (@KoliaDelesalle) April 15, 2019
"Thanks to the @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents, the Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo later confirmed.
While the two iconic towers of Notre Dame were saved, more than two-thirds of its roof was destroyed, including the spire.
Merci aux @PompiersParis, aux policiers et aux agents municipaux qui ont réalisé ce soir une formidable chaîne humaine pour sauver les œuvres de #NotreDame. La couronne d'épines, la tunique de Saint Louis et plusieurs autres œuvres majeures sont à présent en lieu sûr. pic.twitter.com/cbrGWCbL2N— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 15, 2019
"Most immediately, the great tragedy is the structure itself and its fittings," Sheila Bonde, a Brown University art professor, told USA Today. "Many people don't know that the roofs are timber, largely replaced in the 19th century, and they have been totally consumed."
She continued, "Masonry will burn and degrade under intense heat, whcih is clearly what is happening, but we can only wait and see what kind of damage has spread to the church within.
Art historians were nervous that many of the priceless artwork and statues would be consumed by the fire. That includes Charles Desvergnes' 19th century Joan of Arc statue and Nicolas Coustou's 18th century Pieta near the altar.
"I particularly admire the 14th-century wooden panels depicting the life of Christ, and the 78 choir stalls in carved wood added in the 18th century," Laurent Ferri of Cornell University told USA Today. "Now I am afraid they might all disappear in the fire. We all need to hope and pray for the building, because it is part of the world cultural heritage.”
Thankfully, some artwork was known to be saved because they were moved out of the cathedral just last week. The 16 copper statures of the 12 apostles and four evangelists were moved to another location for the first time in over 100 years for a $6.8 million restoration project.
French firefighters continued fighting the flames into the early morning hours Tuesday. A Paris police spokesman told CNN the fire is now under control. It is believed the fire was caused by an accident, and the Paris prosecutors already ruled out arson, reports the Associated Press.
French President Emmanuel Macron has already pledged to start an international fundraising campaign to rebuild one of the most famous buildings in the world.
"Notre Dame is our history, it's our literature, it's our imagery. It's the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations," he said. "This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel."