Firefighting Chaplain Ran Into Burning Cathedral To Save Crown Of Thorns

A daring rescue mission has saved several priceless religious artefacts from the devastating fire at the Notre Dame cathedral.

A massive fire devastated the historic cathedral in Paris on Tuesday, causing its spire to collapse, and sending smoke and ash billowing across the city.

The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions.

Photo: Getty

Flames that began in the afternoon burst through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which collapsed, quickly followed by the entire roof. The fire had also spread to one of its two towers.

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Aside from the obvious architectural significance and beauty of the building itself, it also houses iconic and world famous stained-glass windows, as well as detailed wooden interiors which have reportedly been devastated by the blaze -- including wooden panels depicting the life of Jesus Christ, and choir stalls in carved wood.

The crown of thorns, inside the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral. Photo: Getty

In addition, several priceless works of art and historical treasures are contained within, and many feared they too would be lost -- but a daring rescue mission has seen several saved from peril, including an artefact believed to be the 'crown of thorns' that Christ wore during his crucifixion.

"Thank you to the policemen and the municipal agents who have made this evening a tremendous human chain to save the works of Notre Dame," said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet.

"The Crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place."

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Jean-Claude Gallet, the head of the Parisian fire service, said firefighters had focused their efforts on the rear of the cathedral “where the most precious artifacts are located", and that they had been "safeguarded".

The crown of thorns is considered one of France's most precious treasures and is thought to be the very one worn by Christ. Notre Dame also houses a piece of wood that claims to be a piece from the very cross used in the crucifixion.

The tunic of Saint Louis, a linen shroud, is said to have belonged to King Louis IX, who ruled France until 1270. He was canonised by the Catholic Church as a saint in 1297.

A priest holds the Crown of Thorns as the relic of the passion of Christ is presented to faithful at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo: Getty

Elsewhere, other artefacts were saved through simple good timing.

At this early stage, some have speculated the fire to be connected to the restoration of the cathedral currently underway -- and as part of that effort, more than a dozen copper statues representing the 12 apostles of Christ were removed from the area for safekeeping, meaning they were also saved from the flames.

"We will rebuild," French president Emmanuel Macron said.

"We will rebuild Notre Dame because this is what the French expect because this is what our history deserves, because it is our destiny."

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has raised the idea of a fund for Australians to contribute donations toward the restoration and repair of the cathedral, a notion supported by Labor leader Bill Shorten.

With AAP.