Notre-Dame’s precious rooster statue found battered in debris

PARIS: A wrought copper statue of a rooster that sat atop Notre-Dame has been found “battered” in the debris of the Paris cathedral following its devastating fire, France’s culture ministry said.

The statue is considered all the more important because it contains three holy relics — including a fragment of the Crown of Thorns believed by Christians to have been worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, placed there to protect Parisians.

The sculpture of the bird — which is an unofficial symbol of France — was recovered Tuesday by a restorer picking through the rubble left when the spire on which it had sat toppled at the height of the inferno that ravaged Notre-Dame on Monday, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

The head of the French Builders Federation, Jacques Chanut, posted a picture of the restorer holding a green-coloured rooster statue in the street.

The ministry spokesman said the statue had been handed over to religious officials, without elaborating.

A ministry official separately told Le Parisien newspaper that the statue was “battered but apparently restorable”.

The official was quoted saying that, when the 19th-century spire had collapsed into the cathedral, the rooster statue had detached “and fallen on the good side… away from the seat of the fire”.

Because of the statue’s damage, it was not yet possible to verify if the Crown of Thorns fragment or the other relics were still inside, the official said.

In a stroke of good timing, sculptures of the Twelve Apostles and four New Testament evangelists that adorned the cathedral had been lifted off the building last week, before the fire, for restoration work in the southwestern city of Perigueux.

Those statues had been fixed to the cathedral in the mid-19th century when the spire had been built to replace the original 13th-century one that had been dismantled in the late 18th century because of weather damage.

What fuelled the devastating fire

A “forest” of wooden latticework fueled the blaze which consumed the iconic building’s roof, constructed way back in the 13th century, according to cathedral’s rector Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, reported CNN.

The Paris Fire Brigade said the cathedral’s stone construction was saved, along with the main artworks. However, details such as water damage from the operation to save the building are not clear yet.

Other relics recovered by the authorities

  • The Crown of Thorns, which the cathedral calls its most precious and venerated relic, was rescued from the fire, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

  • Hidalgo also confirmed that the Tunic of Saint Louis and other major artworks were also saved. France Culture Minister Franck Riester said both relics were among items taken to Paris City Hall for safekeeping. He also said that other artworks, including “Mays de Notre Dame,” a series of large paintings, will be taken to the renowned Louvre art gallery soon. The paintings show signs of smoke damage. They will be kept at Louvre’s storage facilities, where they will be dehumidified, protected, conserved and restored.

  • The iconic building’s facade and twin bell towers, which used to be the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of Eiffel Tower’s construction in the late 19th century, survived the blaze. The North and South towers came into existence in 1240 and 1250 respectively. The South Tower has the cathedral’s main bell Emanuelle which marked significant events in French history, including the end of World War II. It is not known whether the bell sustained any fire damage.

  • The Rose windows, a trio of immense round stained-glass windows over the cathedral’s three main portals seems to have been saved, said Riester. These windows belong to the 13th century.

  • The original Great Organ, constructed in the medieval age and one of the world’s most famous musical instruments, dates back to medieval times is safe, said the Archbishop of Paris, as reported by BFM TV.