The masterpieces endangered in the Notre Dame fire

Photo of 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.

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.

A view shows the organ and a rose window inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

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):

Painting Painter Year
The Descent of the Holy Spirit Jacques Blanchard 1634
Saint Pierre healing the sick of his shadow Laurent de la Hyre 1635
The Conversion of St. Paul Lawrence of the Hyre 1637
The Centenary Cornelius at the feet of St. Peter Aubin Vouet 1639
The Preaching of St. Peter in Jerusalem Charles Poerson 1642
The Crucifixion of St. Peter Sebastien Bourdon 1643
The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew Charles Le Brun 1647
Saint Paul blinds the false prophet Barjesu and converts the proconsul Sergius Nicolas Loir 1650
The Saint Stephen’s stoning Charles Le Brun 1651
The Flagellation of Saint Paul and Silas Louis Testelin 1655
Saint André thrills with joy at the sight of his torture Gabriel Blanchard 1670
The Prophet Agabus predicting to St. Paul his sufferings in Jerusalem Louis Cheron 1687
The son of Sceva defeated by the demon Matthew Elyas 1702

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.

One of Notre Dame's grand organs

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.

Candles in Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France, 1973.

One of Notre Dame’s 37 statues of the Virgin Mary.

Other statues include:

Sculpture Artist Year
Closing of the Choir Pierre de Chelle, Jean Ravy and Jean Le Bouteiller 1300 to 1350
Mausoleum of Count Harcourt Jean-Baptiste Pigalle 1776
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Louis Castex 1934
Statue of St. Anthony The sisters of Bethlehem Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy of Mougères 2013

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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