Friday, April 26, 2019
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From the arrow to the rosettes, from the organ to the relics … What was saved or lost during the drama

The flames destroyed part of the structure of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was hit by a fire on April 15, 2019. – PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP

  • The fire of Notre-Dame took away the historic frame and the spire which were works of art in themselves.
  • Inside the cathedral, the time is already in the balance of the damage.
  • Moveable works of art and relics have been saved, but the state of the organ and the rosettes of stained glass windows are causing concern.

The arrow, imagined by Viollet-Le-Duc in 1860, is lost, millions of people have found
live Monday night, during its collapse. The carpentry and the roof, including "la Forêt", the world's oldest cathedral frame, and its thousand-year-old oak beams burned down. For the rest, the balance sheet of
 the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is still unclear.

Contrary to what many observers seemed to fear during the fire, the stone vault partially resisted, so that the interior of the nave was relatively unaffected by the fire. The high altar and the group of sculptures surrounding it have only been partially touched. There is the monumental statue of the sculptor Nicolas Coustou, a Pieta ordered by Louis XIV and the statue of the weeping Virgin, gathering on his knees the body of Christ descended from the cross.

Quick evacuation of works of art

The movable works of art, including some paintings of Le Nain, had been evacuated before 7 pm and are safe in various storage places that the city of Paris has made available. The evacuation plan was followed by firefighters and the services of the Ministry of Culture. The treasure relics were also saved from the flames. The most precious relic preserved at Notre Dame is the Holy Crown, laid, according to the belief of the Catholics, on the head of Jesus shortly before his crucifixion. In addition to the Holy Crown, Notre-Dame preserves two other relics of the Passion of Christ: a piece of the Cross and a nail of the Passion.

The windows of the rosettes, which caused great concern, seem to have suffered a lot. The rosettes north and south, the two largest, are 13 meters in diameter and are the ones that were most confronted to the flames but are intact according to an architect from the buildings of France contacted by 20 minutes. On the other hand, the heat has undoubtedly damaged the coloring of the glasses and the joints, according to this expert.

Similarly, if the stones of the vaults and walls resisted the fire, the metal structures passing through them could melt or be damaged. Monitoring will be required for several months.

The organ in danger

The great organ of Notre Dame was also damaged by water but not by the flames. Built from the fifteenth century, the organ grew gradually, until reaching the eighteenth century its current size: five keyboards, 109 games and nearly 8,000 pipes.

Last Thursday, 16 copper statues depicting the 12 apostles and the four evangelists were unhooked from the spire of the cathedral to be restored and thus escaped the disaster. On the other hand, outside the main façade, many sculptures and exterior decorative elements may have suffered from the fire. The damage inventory should take "several months" according to the Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture.

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