Team effort to save Notre Dame relic, fire chief says

PARIS — The chaplain of the Paris fire brigade credits saving the crown of thorns from fire that gutted Notre Dame to a team of rescuers who broke the relic's protective covering and an official who had the secret code to unlock the protection.

Fire chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier told France Info on Thursday that his own team arrived on the heels of the salvaging, and praised the action "to preserve this extraordinary relic, this patrimony of humanity."

Others had earlier credited Fournier with saving the crown of thorns.

Fournier told daily Le Parisian that he himself was able to save the most precious thing for Catholics from the fires, the concentrated hosts. The paper said he climbed on altars to remove large paintings, but that he felt especially proud of another personal salvaging operation: "to have removed Jesus" from the Cathedral.

He was referring to the chalice containing consecrated hosts that for Catholics are the body of Christ.

France is also paying a daylong tribute Thursday to the Paris firefighters who saved the internationally revered Notre Dame Cathedral from collapse and rescued its treasures from encroaching flames.

French President Emmanuel Macron will host the firefighters for a special gathering to share "words of thanks." Top government ministers will also take part in the event at the presidential palace in Paris.

Later, Paris City Hall will hold a ceremony in the firefighters' honor, with a Bach violin concert, two giant banners strung from the monumental city headquarters and readings from Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

More than 400 firefighters took part in the nine-hour battle to save the 12th-century Notre Dame on Monday evening. Its spire collapsed and roof was destroyed, but its iconic towers, rose windows, famed organ and precious artworks were saved.

Remarkably, no one was killed in the fire, which occurred during a Mass, after firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated those inside.

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