A hero Paris Fire Brigade Chaplain paused to carry out a blessing as he went into the burning Notre Dame cathedral to rescue the Crown of Thorns and Blessed Sacrament, it has emerged.
Father Jean-Marc Fourner was hailed for his bravery after saving the relics, including the priceless crown made to resemble the one worn by Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.
In an exclusive interview with KTO Television Catholique in France on Wednesday, Father Fournier revealed how he "took the chance" to give a blessing as he saved the Blessed Sacrament from the "hellish" flames on Monday.
The chaplain was part of the rescue effort which saved dozens of historical relics and are now safely in storage at the City Hall.
Firefighters and police formed a human chain to save dozens of artefacts and other works of art.
Father Fournier told the broadcaster he chose to give a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament during the effort because he "didn't want simply to remove Jesus". The Blessed Sacrament represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
He said: "As soon as I arrived, there were two things that it struck me as absolutely essential to recover: firstly, the invaluable treasure that is the Crown of Thorns, then, of course, Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament.
"When the fire spread to the north tower, that was the very moment I was taking out the Blessed Sacrament...
"I didn’t want simply to remove Jesus; I took the chance to carry out a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament."
The chaplain added: "Everyone understands that the Crown of Thorns is this precious, extraordinary relic.
"But the Blessed Sacrament is our Lord made flesh... you'll understand it's difficult to see someone you love perish in flames."
He said he was alone in the cathedral "surrounded by flames, fire and smouldering objects falling from the ceiling" as he gave the blessing.
Father Fournier said: "Basically through this Benediction, I prayed to Jesus to help us save his home.
"We have to believe that he listened – and the recovery efforts were also brilliant, the two things came together – it turned out that not only did the fire stop, but we saved the north tower, and by saving the north tower, the south tower was also saved."
Describing the interior of the cathedral he added: "There wasn't much smoke or heat, but then we had a sort of vision of hell, cascades of fire falling from the ceiling caused by the fall of the spire."
Nearly 400 firefighters battled through the night before the blaze was declared fully extinguished at about 10am local time (8am GMT) on Tuesday.
Two police officers and one firefighter were injured, and at one point it was feared the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece would be completely destroyed in the blaze, which lasted more than 12 hours.
Investigators believe the blaze was caused by accident, possibly as a result of restoration work taking place.
Firefighters said Notre Dame's rose windows are in good shape after the fire, but that their support structures are at risk.
Spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters that the rose windows are "in good condition" but that "there is a risk for the gables that are no longer supported by the frame".
He said firefighters took down statues inside the gables above the rose windows to protect them, and took care not to spray water too hard on the delicate stained glass.
He said firefighters and experts are still closely monitoring the building to determine how much damage the structure suffered and what needs to be dismantled to avoid collapse.
A Paris fire official said the towers of Notre Dame would have fallen if firefighters had not deployed massive equipment and acted swiftly.