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The masterpieces endangered in the Notre Dame fire

Sparks and flames are seen through a destroyed stained glass window as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019.
REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Claimed by the flames.
  • Amanda Shendruk
By Amanda Shendruk

Visual journalist

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Notre Dame is one of the world’s great works of architecture. But the cathedral itself is not the only masterpiece on its grounds. Housed in its walls are many historically and artistically valuable items acquired over centuries. As the Paris landmark burns, noted paintings, pipe organs, religious relics, and one-of-a-kind stained-glass installations are at risk.

As first responders try to salvage the art and other items, a priest from the cathedral told a Paris Match journalist that artworks and relics have been saved.

Here are some of the most famous treasures believed to be inside the cathedral at the time of the blaze:

Notre Dame’s stained glass and rose windows

The south-facing circular rose window is one of the most famous pieces of stained glass in the world. Notre Dame has multiple windows of this type, but this one, built in 1260, became the pattern for rose windows in cathedrals around Europe. Today, the glass is not original, as centuries of damage and restoration—including a fire in 1830—have altered it.

REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
One of the cathedral’s rose windows.

Notre Dame’s paintings

The cathedral has about 50 “Mays” of Notre Dame (link in French), large paintings that were commissioned that month nearly every year from 1630 to 1707. The following were on display at the time of the fire (titles translated from their original French):

The Descent of the Holy SpiritJacques Blanchard1634
Saint Pierre healing the sick of his shadowLaurent de la Hyre1635
The Conversion of St. PaulLawrence of the Hyre1637
The Centenary Cornelius at the feet of St. PeterAubin Vouet1639
The Preaching of St. Peter in JerusalemCharles Poerson1642
The Crucifixion of St. PeterSebastien Bourdon1643
The Crucifixion of Saint AndrewCharles Le Brun1647
Saint Paul blinds the false prophet Barjesu and converts the proconsul SergiusNicolas Loir1650
The Saint Stephen’s stoningCharles Le Brun1651
The Flagellation of Saint Paul and SilasLouis Testelin1655
Saint André thrills with joy at the sight of his tortureGabriel Blanchard1670
The Prophet Agabus predicting to St. Paul his sufferings in JerusalemLouis Cheron1687
The son of Sceva defeated by the demonMatthew Elyas1702

There were at least two additional significant pieces of art on display in the cathedral: The Visitation, painted by Jean Jouvenet in 1716; and Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fountain of Wisdom painted in 1648 by Antoine Nicolas.

Notre Dame’s organs

The Great Organ may be the most well-known organ in the world. It has five keyboards and nearly 8,000 pipes. The cathedral has two other organs, though they are significantly smaller.

P Photo/Christophe Ena
One of Notre Dame’s grand organs

Notre Dame’s statuary

There were 37 representations of the Virgin Mary inside the cathedral. The most famous of those is a Madonna and child called Our Lady of Paris.

Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images
One of Notre Dame’s 37 statues of the Virgin Mary.

Other statues include:

Closing of the ChoirPierre de Chelle, Jean Ravy and Jean Le Bouteiller1300 to 1350
Mausoleum of Count HarcourtJean-Baptiste Pigalle1776
Saint Therese of the Child JesusLouis Castex1934
Statue of St. AnthonyThe sisters of Bethlehem Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy of Mougères2013

Notre Dame’s relics

Notre Dame is also home to the Relics of Sainte-Chapelle, which include what is believed to be the crown of thorns placed on Jesus at his crucifixion, and a fragment of the cross on which he died.

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