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The priceless art and artefacts housed inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral - in pictures

This stunning piece of medieval Gothic architecture that was hit by a devasating fire on Monday night is home to hundreds of priceless paintings and religious artefacts

The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was engulfed by flames on Monday night, attracts about 13 million visitors a year. It is easy to understand why. This stunning piece of medieval Gothic architecture is home to hundreds of priceless paintings and religious artefacts, but it also has a colourful history, featuring Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc and Charles de Gaulle.

Construction on Notre-Dame – or 'Our Lady' – began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and was completed in 1345. The building was desecrated in the 1790s during the French Revolution but, following the publication of Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, restoration began on the building. The spire, which collapsed during Monday’s fire, was added in the mid-1850s.

It was in this building that Henry VI of England was made King of France in 1431, while Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor of France took place there in 1804. Later, in 1909, Joan of Arc was beatified in the cathedral by Pope Pius X.

Along with the spire, the roof was destroyed in the fire, but the two bell towers and main building remains intact. There is still concern about the relics housed inside. Many of these were saved after a hasty evacuation effort, including the Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been placed on Jesus’ head during the crucifixion, and the Tunic of Saint Louis, a linen garment from the 13th century.

Images have also emerged confirming that at least two of the stained-glass rose windows are intact, including the north window, La Rosace Nord, which was considered to be at the greatest risk. The west window is reportedly intact but damaged.

The fate of many other items remains unknown, however, the concerns are not just about fire damage, but also smoke and water damage. Falling debris could also ruin statues, woodwork and architecture.

It will take a number of days before we have a comprehensive list of which items have been destroyed and which were saved, but here are some of the most important relics housed in the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The Great Organ

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The Great Organ

One of the most famous organs in the world, the Great Organ has five keyboards, 109 stops and nearly 8,000 pipes, some of which date back to the Middle Ages. Paris’s deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, has confirmed that the organ was saved from the fire but Culture Minister Franck Riester said the organ “seems to be quite badly damaged”.

Madonna and Child

Nearly two metres tall, this statue was created in the 14th century and depicts the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. It was moved to Notre-Dame in 1818.

Stained Glass

(FILES) This file photo taken on November 29, 2012 shows a view of the inside of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris. A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. / AFP / PATRICK KOVARIK
A file photo taken on November 29, 2012 shows a view of the inside of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris, showing some of the stained glass. Photo: AFP

The cathedral’s three impressive stained-glass circular rose windows were built in the 13th century and were renovated several times. They show prophets, saints, angels, kings and scenes of the daily lives of holy figures. At the centre of each is an image of either the Virgin Mary, Christ as a baby or Christ as king reigning over heaven.

The Cathedral’s High Altar

The high altar at the cathedral features a sculpture by Nicolas Costeau, Descent from the Cross. The sculpture is flanked by a statue of Louis XIII on the right and Louis XIV on the left.

13-tonne bell

FRANCE - APRIL 08: The Emmanuel bell of Notre-Dame Cathedral, 1685 (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1991), Ile de la Cite, Paris, Ile-de-France, France. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
The Emmanuel bell of Notre-Dame Cathedral, 1685. Photo: Getty

The largest and oldest of the cathedral's bells is known as the Bourdon Emmanuel. Cast 300 years ago, it weighs 13 tonnes, its clapper alone being 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds).

The tenor bell, considered one of the finest examples in Europe, is chimed only on special occasions and important Catholic events, and was joined in 2013 by nine new bells.

It only just managed to avoid being melted down during the revolution and rang out to announce the liberation of Paris from German occupation in 1944.


Between 1630 and 1707 the Paris goldsmith guild presented the cathedral with a painting on May 1 every year. Of these 76 works called The Mays, 13 were displayed in various chapels in the cathedral.

On the west wall of the Chapel of Saint-Guillaume is one of the most beautiful paintings in the cathedral, the Visitation by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1716).

The Gallery of the Kings

A series of stone figures of Old Testament kings that stand above the entrance to the cathedral. Some of these were taken from the cathedral during the French Revolution and beheaded with a guillotine.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

Carved in 1934 by Louis Castex, this limestone statue of St Therese of Lisieux shows the saint with a cross and a bouquet of roses.

Additional reporting: AFP

Updated: April 17, 2019 04:50 PM