Notre-Dame's relics rescued by hero priest who rushed into flames

James Rothwell
Father Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade

He helped wounded victims in the 2015 attack on the Bataclan in Paris and survived an ambush in Afghanistan while serving as an Army chaplain. 

Now, a French priest has been hailed as a hero once again for rushing into the burning Notre-Dame cathedral to recover the sacred Crown of Thorn Relics and the Blessed Sacrament. 

On Monday night French officials expressed fears that the centuries-old artefacts would be lost to the flames, which broke out at 7pm and consumed the Cathedral's spire and roof. 

But Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, succeeded in bringing them to safety, prompting emergency workers to declare him "an absolute hero."

"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," one source told French media.  

Catholics believe the Crown of Thorns was worn by Jesus Christ during the Crucifixion.

A priest wipes the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, in April 2017. The relic, venerated by Catholics as once worn by Jesus Christ, was threatened by a devastating fire at the cathedral on April 15, 2019. (USA Today)


It is not the first time Father Fournier has been praised for his bravery and public service. 

In 2015 he comforted the wounded after the Isil terrorist attack which left 89 dead at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan concert venue. 

And, during his time as an army chaplain, he survived an ambush which killed 10 troops. 

The story was first broken by Etienne Loraillere, an editor for France's KTO Catholic network. 

Despite dramatic images showing the top of the Cathedral engulfed in flames, no one was killed in the blaze, though one fire fighter has been seriously injured. 

Notre-Dame's fire alarm went off at around 6.45pm and all members of the congregation had left the Mass and were outside when the fire took hold fifteen minutes later. 

Firefighters worked through the night to extinguish the flames, and on Tuesday morning Paris officials confirmed the structure of the Cathedral had been saved.

They also formed a human chain to pass valuable works of art and artefacts to safety.