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Is the Crown of Thorns Real? Sacred Relic Saved From Tragic Notre Dame Fire

Updated on April 16, 2019
Stephen Sinclair profile image

Stephen Sinclair is a Canadian freelance writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Historic Relic Plucked From Fire By Human Chain In Heroic Effort

The crown of thorns housed in its crystal reliquary of 1896.
The crown of thorns housed in its crystal reliquary of 1896. | Source

Is The Crown Of Thorns Saved From The Notre Dame Fire Real?

On April 15, 2019, in the early evening, a fire broke out that ravaged Paris' Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral before an awe-struck nation. Less than 24 hours later, hundred of millions of euros have been pledged to an effort to rebuild the renowned building, with a history dating back 850 years, as reported by the BBC.

Notre Dame was the home of many irreplaceable artifacts, works of art, a massive pipe organ, and relics, notably the crown of thorns and a piece of the True Cross and Holy Nails, which were saved, as reported by The Guardian. The fates of the sculptures, Madonna and Child, and, Statue of St.Denis, as well as that of a painting of St.Thomas Aquinas appear to be unknown. Between 5 and 10 percent of the cathedral's artwork is thought to have been lost.

CBS reported that a "human chain" of rescuers formed, which included Jean-Francois Martins, deputy mayor of Paris, and Father Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain with the city's fire department, to remove the national treasures.

When the crown of thorns was first brought to France, its actual thorns were removed and kept in different locations. The crown portion of the relic, said to be made of rushes, is what was housed at Notre Dame. It is purported to have been worn by Jesus Christ when he was crucified by Pontius Pilate around 30 AD.

Historians are able to trace the movement of the crown of thorns from sometime after 400 AD from Jerusalem to France. Where was the crown from 30 AD to sometime after 400 AD? How can we know if the priceless relic is genuine? While different people have different opinions as to the veracity of the origin of the crown of thorns stored at Notre Dame, none can deny its significance to Christians around the word.

Crown Of Thorns: Venerated For Over 1,500 Years

'King Louis IX Carrying the crown of thorns'
'King Louis IX Carrying the crown of thorns' | Source

It Depends Who You Ask

Speaking with AFP in 2017, Monseigneur Patrick Chauvet, rector of Notre Dame, stated that "no other place in the world claims to have the crown of thorns. So, we are certain that this is Christ's crown of thorns. It is referenced to 430 AD because they didn't venerate relics until then." He described how it was moved from Jerusalem to France by King Louis IX, known as King Saint-Louis.

However, there are those who, while acknowledging that the crown of thorns is a centrally important part of the Catholic faith with a remarkable history, question its authenticity.

Speaking with France 24 in 2015, Inge Laino, a managing director with Paris Muse, described the ceremony of the crown being displayed for the faithful to venerate at Easter and how masses of people continue to do so even though its authenticity "cannot be 100 percent guaranteed."

Ms. Laino said of followers' devotion, "relics are often used in that way, as an aid to contemplation and belief." The crown of thorns has been housed at Notre Dame since the 19th century and first arrived in France in 13th century. The move by King Louis was said to "make Paris an important destination for pilgrims."

When it first arrived in Paris, the crown of thorns was kept at Sainte-Chapelle, which was built by Saint-Louis exclusively for the purpose. Louis was the single French King to be granted sainthood. Laino described him as "a very dear saint to the French people."

Those Who Venerate The Crown Of Thorns Follow Their Faith

The Authenticity Of The Relic Has Been Contemplated For Many Years

© 2019 Stephen Sinclair


Submit a Comment
  • JC Scull profile image

    JC Scull 

    7 months ago from Gainesville, Florida

    Interesting article.

    The business of fake relics goes back many hundreds of years. I have heard well over a millennium. You would think that with an object made of organic material like the Crown of Thorns, it would be easy to ascertain its age through carbon dating. This would go a long way in authenticating it as a true artifact from the time of Christ.

    It would not however, prove whether it was indeed worn by Christ or the truthfulness of his story.

    In any case, I am sure these types of artifacts bring a lot of comfort to believers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • ChristianWritings profile image

    Christian Writings 

    13 months ago

    This is a very interesting and informative article, although I think as Christians we shouldn't have to rely on relics and their authenticity because as the Bible says in Ephesians 2:18 "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." ...meaning we already have direct access to the Father by the Spirit of God, through Jesus' death on that cross. So whether we see/touch/know about the authenticity of the crown of thorns we know already in our hearts that we are ultimately connected to our Father in Heaven.

    That alone is cause for rejoicing :) Hallelujah!


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