A Crown of Thorns said to have been the one placed on the head of Jesus Christ, the Tunic of St. Louis (a 13th century French king) and bronze statues are among the first religious artefacts known to have been rescued from the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which burst into flames Tuesday at 6:40 pm Central European Summer Time (12:40 pm Tuesday, Eastern Time).
The fire occurred as the Christian world commemorates Holy Week.
Flames engulfed the upper part of the historic cathedral, which is being renovated, including the central spire. The medieval roof structure, which is also known as "the Forest," burned down and the spire collapsed from the spreading flames.
"The framework from the 13th century is called a forest, because it required a forest of trees to build it," said Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, rector of the cathedral.
At the time of the fire, the cathedral was undergoing renovations on the spire at an estimated cost of $6.8 million. Steel scaffolding was erected around the roof.
Fortunately, the stone, copper and bronze statues, including statues of the 12 Apostles, were removed from the site days before the fire in preparation for the renovation. Investigators say the fire might be linked to the renovation. They have ruled out arson or a terrorist attack as the cause of the massive blaze, for now.
No deaths have been reported but one French fire fighter was seriously injured. More than 400 firemen from the Paris Fire Brigade are battling the blaze while emergency responders scrambled to save the priceless art and religious artefacts kept in the Cathedral.
Notre Dame spokesperson Andre Finot said "the (whole structure is) burning ... there will be nothing left. It remains to be seen whether the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not."
He also said they now believe "that the two towers of Notre Dame have been saved. We now consider that the main structure of Notre Dame has been saved and preserved." The famous bells of Norte-Dame are safe.
French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the storied cathedral and urged the world to help in its reconstruction.
"I'm telling you all tonight -- we will rebuild this cathedral together," he said. "This is probably part of the French destiny. And we will do it in the next years. Starting tomorrow, a national donation scheme will be started that will extend beyond our borders."
The Vatican expressed "great shock and sadness" about the fire at Notre Dame. It called the cathedral "a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world."
"We express closeness to the French Catholics and the people of Paris and we assure our prayers for the firefighters and those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation," said a Vatican statement.
The Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine where the cathedral is located, was evacuated during the blaze.
Construction of Notre-Dame was completed in 1345 more than a century after work began in 1163.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.