Precious rooster found battered in debris

Top News | AFP and AP 18 Apr 2019

A wrought copper statue of a rooster that sat atop the Notre-Dame cathedral has been found "battered" in the debris following the 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 rooster - which is an unofficial symbol of France - was recovered by a restorer picking through the rubble left when the spire on which it had sat toppled at the height of Monday's inferno.

A ministry official said the statue was "battered but apparently restorable." He added 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.

During the blaze, firefighters formed a human chain to rescue a swathe of "priceless treasures." Some 400 firefighters tackled the huge blaze. They brought out many relics - not least the Crown of Thorns and a sacred tunic worn by 13th century French king Louis IX.

Fire brigade lieutenant-colonel Gabriel Plus said "everything was against" the first firefighters on the scene. "Time and the wind were against us and we had to get on top of it fast. We had to make a rapid choice ... and the priority we gave ourselves was to save the two bell towers, and both were saved."

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said: "A tremendous human chain formed comprising firefighters, police and municipal workers," which stretched for some 200 meters and managed "to save dozens and dozens of artifacts" by passing them along the chain and out to safety.

Within hours of their removal, the treasures would be on the move once again, this time to the Louvre, for safe keeping.

Meanwhile, the organist who was playing at evening mass when flames began heading toward the roof said the unique great organ seemingly escaped largely intact.

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