Paris, FR – Parisian law enforcement officers and firefighters formed a human chain in order to successfully save priceless historical relics from the raging inferno inside the ancient Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday.
Among the items they were able to retrieve from the blaze were two of the most iconic – Jesus Christ’s crucifixion crown of thorns, and the Blessed Sacrament, CBS News reported.
The man who quickly located the crown and Blessed Sacrament and passed them off to safety was Father Jean-Marc Fournier, who is also the Paris Fire Brigade chaplain.
It wasn’t the first time the priest rushed towards danger.
When the Islamic State used guns and explosives to murder 89 people in a terrorist attack at the Bataclan music venue on Nov. 13, 2015, Fournier raced inside to deliver last rites to the dead and dying, The Irish Catholic reported.
He also comforted the survivors.
Fournier previously served in the Armed Force diocese for seven years, and survived an ambush in Afghanistan that left 10 soldiers dead.
Despite the ferocity of the inferno, he was insistent that he be allowed to enter the 850-year-old cathedral, Paris 15th District Mayor Philippe Goujon said, according to CBS News.
“He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the Cathedral, and made sure they were saved,” an emergency services source told the Daily Mail. “He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”
But he wasn’t alone. Fournier’s rescue attempt might have cost him his life, were it not for the joint effort of countless first responders at the scene.
“We made a human chain, with our friends from the church…to get, as quick as possible, to get all the relics,” Paris Tourism and Sports Deputy Mayor Jean-Francios Martins told CBS News on Tuesday.
“Thanks to the great bravery of all our firefighters, and as well all the public servants there, we had a very quick intervention,” Martins explained. “A team was fully dedicated to save all these holy pieces, and specifically the relics and the crown…and in our really bad day, we had one good news.”
The tunic of Saint Louis, which dates back to the 13th century, was among the other artifacts that were saved, Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted on Monday night.
The surviving relics have been taken to the Louvre Museum for safekeeping, WJXT reported.
Two police officers and one firefighter were injured battling the fire, according to The Washington Post.
A rectangular tower and the medieval cathedral’s iconic spire both collapsed before the blaze was extinguished, WJXT reported.
The 750-ton spire was originally constructed in the 13th century, and was rebuilt in the 19th century.
The cathedral’s roof was constructed from 800-year-old beams harvested from an ancient forest, the Associated Press reported.
But the trees in France are no longer large enough to produce the massive beams needed to perfectly replicate the original roof.
Construction of the present-day French Catholic epicenter began in 1163, and continued for two centuries, according to the Notre Dame Cathedral website.
Early Tuesday morning, approximately nine hours after the blaze ignited, firefighters were able to get it under control, the Daily Mail reported.
“It’s a part of our history, so it’s a part of our identity,” Martins said of the cathedral during his interview with CBS News. “[Whether] you are a believer or not…it’s specifically the place where the city of Paris has been built.”
“The Parisians are strong, and they will rise up again, and build it again, and we’ll show that even in our sadness, we can rebound as every time,” he added.
Over $700 million in private donations have been raised to help rebuild the Gothic cathedral, The Washington Post reported.
The City of Paris has also donated $56 million to the cause, and the regional government agreed to contribute another $11 million.
Experts predict it will take at least a decade to rebuild the iconic cathedral.