ROME – Nearly one year after a fire ravaged the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the city’s archbishop will briefly return to the cathedral its most prized relic, the Crown of Thorns, on the day in which Catholics commemorate Jesus’s suffering and death.
On April 15, 2019, the day after Holy Week began, a massive fire sparked by renovations and fueled by a lattice of centuries-old timbers, burned through the roof of the ancient cathedral and much of its vaulting, collapsing the Parisian icon’s famed spire, visible from miles away.
Despite the fast-burning blaze, several treasures housed in the cathedral were saved thanks to the quick action of firefighters, priests and municipal workers, who formed a human chain and passed the relics out hand-to-hand, trying to beat the flames.
Among the most prized items salvaged was the Crown of Thorns, which was temporarily stored at the Louvre museum; it’s believed to be the one placed on Jesus’s head before his crucifixion. The tunic of St. Louis IX, a lengthy shirt-like garment dating to the 13th century and believed to have belonged to the French monarch, was also saved.
Made of rushes wrapped into a wreath and tied with gold filament, the crown was brought to Paris by Louis in the 13th century. Since 1896, it has been kept in a protective glass case, and rarely displayed.
Prior to the fire, the Notre Dame cathedral would traditionally display the Crown of Thorns every Friday during Lent, including Good Friday, at 3 p.m., the traditional time of Jesus’s death. Due to last year’s blaze, this year the weekly Friday veneration was done at the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church in Paris.
However, Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit will briefly return the crown to Notre Dame for an hour of veneration at 11:30 a.m. on April 10, Good Friday.
According to the archdiocese, Aupetit will be accompanied by the rector of the cathedral, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, and Auxiliary Bishop of Paris Denis Jachiet.
During the ceremony, Aupetit will venerate the crown himself, after which there will be a period of meditation and with the intermittent reading of texts and music performed by French violinist M. Renaud Capuçon.
Among the authors of the texts to be read are Mother Teresa and French poets Marie-Noël, Paul Claudel and Charles Peguy.
The event will be broadcast live on French television stations, BFM TV and on KTO, since public gatherings have been banned due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The Shroud of Turin, believed to be Jesus’s burial garment, will also be displayed on television and social media from April 11-17as a response to the coronavirus.
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Originally Aupetit had planned to have a street procession with the Crown of Thorns, but had to cancel the plans due to France’s strict lockdown measures.
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