With France’s Notre Dame Cathedral in flames and time of the essence, a hero priest rushed to the scene to assist firefighters in their efforts to save invaluable artifacts from the historic landmark.
According to The Guardian, father Jean-Marc Fournier — the chaplain of the Paris Fire Department — helped in a human chain of first responders who worked together to save religious relics from the world-famous landmark, which suddenly caught aflame Monday night. The devastating fire burned through the roof of the 856-year-old building and caused its spire to collapse, and put many of the centuries-old items inside at risk of damage or destruction.
A powerful image of Fournier, tweeted by reporter Etienne Loraillère of the country’s KTO Catholic television network, showed him working into the night to save artifacts such as the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.
“Father Fournier, [the] chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, went with the firefighters into Notre Dame Cathedral to save the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament,” Loraillère tweeted, in a translation by BuzzFeed News.
The Crown of Thorns is a Catholic relic believed to be a piece of the item worn by Jesus when he was crucified, while the Blessed Sacrament represents the body and blood of Christ in the form of blessed bread and wine.
But Fournier is no stranger to placing himself in dangerous situations. He was a member of the French armed forces and spent time in Afghanistan, The Guardian reported, and during the 2015 terrorist attack at Bataclan, Fournier arrived to comfort the injured and pray over the deceased.
“Father Fournier is an absolute hero,” a member of emergency services told radio station NewsTalk. “He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”
Les agents du @MinistereCC, épaulés par les équipes de l’archevêché, les @PompiersParis et les forces de sécurité, évacuent les œuvres se trouvant à l’intérieur de la cathédrale. Elles sont progressivement mises en sécurité. #NotreDame pic.twitter.com/iINHyUqJME— Franck Riester (@franckriester) April 15, 2019
Paris’ Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Sports, Jean-Francois Martins, on Tuesday thanked the firefighters and public servants who rushed to save the items as the ash and debris rained down from the burning roof.
“We made a human chain, with our friends from the church… to get, as quick as possible, to get all the relics,” he told CBS News. “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.”
He added, “Everything is safe and undamaged, and in our really bad day, we had one good news.”
So far, more than $700 million has been raised for what is sure to be a massive rebuilding project. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also announced a €50 million ($56 million) donation from the City of Paris, while the regional government agreed to provide €10 million ($11 million), the Washington Post reports.