Notre-Dame: Fate of gothic masterpiece's priceless treasures

Sunita Patel-Carstairs, news reporter

Firefighters risked their lives to save Notre-Dame's priceless historical artefacts of religious and cultural significance from the raging inferno that engulfed the 12th century cathedral.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed most artworks and several of the most sacred relics had been saved from the fire which ravaged much of the building's roof and caused its iconic spire to collapse.

Police officers and other city officials raced to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old smouldering ruin and formed what she described as a "tremendous human chain" to save the relics.

Culture minister Franck Riester posted photos on social media of people loading art onto trucks and said other treasures were being held under lock and key at city hall.

People from across the world mourned the destruction of one of the most visited historic monuments in Europe.

"It's the very soul of Paris, but it's not just for French people. For all humanity, it's one of the great monuments to the best of civilisation," said Barbara Drake Boehm, senior curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval Cloisters branch in New York.

Here are some of the most famous items associated with the towering jewel of Western architecture which has survived wars and revolutions:

:: Crown of Thorns

Purported to be a relic of the wreath of thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, it was brought to Paris in 1238 by French monarch Louis IX.

The hallowed object was contained in an elaborate gold case which was stored in the cathedral's treasury and is only occasionally displayed for people to see.

Ms Hidalgo said the Crown of Thorns had been taken into safekeeping.

:: Tunic of Saint Louis

The garment was said to have been worn by Louis IX as he brought the Crown of Thorns to Paris.

The mayor said it had also been saved from the flames which devastated the Parisian landmark.

:: Rose Windows

These are among the most famous architectural features of the Gothic masterpiece - the construction of which began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII - and was completed in 1345.

The three stained glass rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, are treasured artworks in their own right.

They adorn the north, south and west facades of the cathedral and have been described as "irreplaceable" by experts.

There are hopes that they have escaped catastrophic damage after firefighters managed to stop the blaze from spreading.

The enormous circular window of the nave appeared to be intact.

:: Great Organ

Notre-Dame's master organ is one of the largest in the world and boasts nearly 8,000 pipes, some dating back to the 1730s.

Each individual pipe of the monumental instrument, the largest in France, was cleaned when the organ was fully restored six years ago.

The city's deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire expressed his "enormous relief" to BFTV that the organ, which was constructed by Francois Thierry, remains intact.

:: Bells

The bells that have rung out at key moments in France's history are thought to be safe after the fire was prevented from spreading to the cathedral's two western towers where they are housed.

Ms Hidalgo tweeted: "I want to say thank you to @PompiersParis, they saved the towers. I could not imagine Paris without the towers of Notre Dame."

Emmanuel, the largest bell, weighing more than 23 tonnes, was lifted into the south tower in 1685.

The monument featured prominently in Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in which Quasimodo was the cathedral's bell-ringer.

The place of worship fell into neglect during the French Revolution, but the renewed attention it received following the publication of the novel in 1831 led to two decades of restoration works.