Among the surviving treasures is the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus.
The world is still reeling from the devastating fire that tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last night. Historic monument restoration experts estimate that it will take between 10 and 15 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to restore the building to its former glory after its iconic spire collapsed.
While the extent of the damage and the cost of repairs are being assessed, the French State has launched an official website to collect much-needed donations to this cause. Billionaire art collectors Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault quickly increased the prize pool to some 300 million euros ($340 million). Other pledges were made today by cosmetics group L'Oréal, the Bettencourt family and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, which pledged an additional 200 million euros ($226 million), while the company gas and energy company Total added 100 million euros ($113 million).
As emergency services battled the blaze, police and firefighters formed a human chain to evacuate therelics the most priceless and mobile works of art. French Culture Minister Franck Riester shared footage of the evacuation process on Twitter.
Mr Riester told French radio this morning it was 'too early to say' whether any of the large-scale paintings inside the cathedral survived the fire. These include the Visitation (1716) by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet, a 17th century work, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fountain of Wisdom (1648) by Antoine Nicolas. Although he clarified that the fire did not reach the interior of the cathedral where they are kept, they are likely to have suffered water damage. "We'll know more as soon as we can get back inside and make a diagnosis," Riester said. "We need to remove the paintings as soon as possible, clean them, dehumidify them, place them in an appropriate place for conservation and begin restoration."
Among the priceless treasures said to have perished in the fire are many of the cathedral's famous gargoyles, as well as the "forest" of medieval oak timbers that adorned the roof of the cathedral, which would have helped fuel the fire. The relics that were in the spire that collapsed, including some of the patron saints of Paris, Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, one of the seventy thorns from the original crown of thorns and a reliquary rooster, are all said to have perished.
On a more optimistic note, here are the works known to have survived the fire, some of which, according to Minister Riester, will be removed from City Hall to be overseen by curators at the Louvre later this week.
The crown of thorns
Minister Riester confirmed this morning that the cathedral's most precious object, the Holy Crown of Thorns, which is believed to have been placed on Jesus' head before his crucifixion, is safe. The relic measures approximately eight inches in diameter and is made from braided rushes bound with gold thread, although it was originally made up of 70 thorns which were distributed around the world.
The tunic of Saint Louis
This sacred tunic is believed to have been worn by King Louis IX, a crusader in the 13th century, when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris after purchasing it from the Latin emperor of Byzantium. Louis, who would later be elevated to the rank of a saint, walked barefoot behind the relic as it was transported to France.