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Fire chaplain who helped Bataclan victims entered burning Notre Dame to save Crown of Thorns relic

16 Apr 2019 Daily Mail Online

A French priest who helped comfort the wounded after the worst terrorist attack on Paris this century and who survived an ambush in Afghanistan today also emerged as a hero of the Notre Dame fire.

Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns from the blazing cathedral on Monday night.

It was feared that both religious artefacts would be lost as flames engulfed the medieval building, but Father Fournier made sure they were taken to safety.

Etienne Loraillere, an editor for France's KTO Catholic television network, said Father Fournier 'went with the firefighters into Notre Dame Cathedral to save the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament'.

This was confirmed by an emergency services source who said: 'Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

Father Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns from the blazing Notre Dame cathedral

The Holy Crown of Thorns displayed at a ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral in 2014. The holy relic was saved from destruction in last night's blaze by chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, Jean-Marc Fournier

'He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the Cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.'

The blaze erupted in the medieval UNESCO world heritage landmark in the French capital on Monday, sending its spire and roof crashing to the ground as flames and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky.


The fire, which at one point threatened the entire edifice, was brought under control early on Tuesday about nine hours after it broke out.

Father Fournier rushed inside the Bataclan music venue in Paris on November 13 2015, when Islamic State militants murdered 89 people using guns and explosives.

Emergency services worked with city staff to save priceless relics from the devastating fire

Smoke and flames rising into the Paris sky during the devastating fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris last night 

The modest chaplain prayed over the dead, and comforted those who were injured or had lost loved ones.

'I gave collective absolution, as the Catholic Church authorises me,' father Fournier said at the time.

Father Fournier, who is in his 50s, started his career as Catholic priest in Germany, and then moved to the Sarthe department of France.

He joined the armed forces diocese in 2004, spending seven years working with the army all over the world.

In Afghanistan he was involved in an ambush in which 10 soldiers were killed.

Father Fournier said: 'On my first trip to Afghanistan, I was seized by fear – everything I saw could potentially be dangerous, as we had learned during training courses.'

Some of the world's most priceless relics were saved as the inferno rage last night when firefighters formed a human chain inside the fire ravaged building.

Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, thanked the city's emergency services in a tweet, revealing they had formed a 'formidable human chain to save the works' of Notre Dame. 

Other precious artefacts that were saved included the tunic of Saint Louis, which dated back to the 13th century. 

The Crown of Thorns is said to have been part of the crown placed on Jesus's head during his crucifixion.  

After parts of the thorns were distributed around Europe in the following centuries it was brought to Paris by Louis IX after being given as a gift by the Latin Emperor of Constantinople, Baldwin II in 1238.

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