A brave chaplain and a human chain saved holy relics from Notre Dame Cathedral fire

/ CBS News

Notre Dame fire: Human chain saved relics

Paris's Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Sports, Jean-Francois Martins told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday that he and others on the scene jumped into action to salvage the trove of art and artifacts housed in Notre Dame Cathedral as a devastating fire engulfed the ancient building the previous evening.

"We made a human chain, with our friends from the church… to get, as quick as possible, to get all the relics," he said, noting that the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ on the cross was among the items rescued.

"Thanks to the great bravery of all our firefighters, and as well all the public servants there, we had a very quick intervention. Very quickly a team was fully dedicated to save all these holy pieces, and specifically the relics and the crown," Martins said. "Everything is safe and undamaged, and in our really bad day, we had one good news."

A priest wipes the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of Christ, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 14, 2017. Getty

Britain's Sky News and other outlets reported, meanwhile, that the man at the hot end of the human chain, who quickly located the most iconic of relics — the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament — was Father Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

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Sky quoted French Catholic news network KTO editor Etienne Loraillere as saying Fournier, "went with the firefighters into Notre Dame Cathedral to save the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament."

Philippe Goujon, the Mayor of Paris' 15th district, said Fournier insisted on being allowed to enter the burning cathedral with his fellow firefighters, and played a role in the relic's rescue.

The Blessed Sacrament refers to items used during church services to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Notre Dame Cathedral "interwoven" with fabric of French history, expert says

According to KTO, Father Fornier was previously a military chaplain who served in Afghanistan, but more recently he comforted victims of the terror attack on the Bataclan theater in Paris in 2015.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that all the art and artifacts rescued from the cathedral would be transferred to another Parisian landmark, the Louvre Museum, for safe keeping.

First published on April 16, 2019 / 9:02 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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