Mysteries of the Faith (2023) s01e01 Episode Script

Crown of Thorns

[Frédéric Ferlicot in French]
I had a meeting in Montmartre.
A friend who works near the cathedral
sent me photos.
I was amazed.
I couldn't believe it.
So I went to Sacré-Coeur
where you can see all of Paris.
I felt like I was in a movie.
A disaster movie, an American movie.
I was filled with tears, shivers.
There was something very violent about it.
The Crown of Thorns
is the first thing we thought of.
It really is the treasure of Notre-Dame.
It touched Christ.
It was thrust onto his head.
It bears the prayers of all the people
who have come for 2,000 years
to encounter this crown.
It was essential to save it.
[narrator in English]
For thousands of years,
people of many faiths
have worshipped relics.
But for Catholics,
they have a unique resonance.
And millions of believers
pin their hopes and prayers
on these mysterious objects.
Why are they so powerful?
[man 1] A relic is like a rocket.
It's a heart opening.
Suddenly you float,
and then you're taken to God.
[narrator] Can these fragments
from the distant past perform miracles?
[woman in Italian] Being close to death,
being here and talking about it, is a lot.
[narrator in English]
The history of relics has, for millennia,
been shrouded in mystery.
But now, for the first time,
the Vatican has granted us access
to tell their stories.
What can they reveal
about the power of belief?
[man 2] It's as if the Holy Spirit
came down and touched you.
It changed my life.
[Hubert in French]
I think that it is indeed a grace
to be present,
to be there to protect,
because you never know what could happen.
We are the guardians.
We are ready to do what is necessary
to protect this priceless relic.
[narrator in English]
Away from the busy city streets,
hundreds of faithful
wait in reverent silence
for a rare and remarkable moment.
[gongs sounding]
Brought out from its secret vault
is the most iconic relic of all.
The Crown of Thorns.
[Oliver Dumas in French] It is one
of the most important relics of Christ.
It's one of the relics of the Passion,
so it's something magnificent.
It's extremely important
for the history of the church,
for the history of our country
and for popular devotion.
[narrator in English]
Believed to retain miraculous powers,
perhaps the greatest miracle of all
is the Crown of Thorns'
own story of survival.
For thousands of years,
this precious relic
has been fiercely protected
by emperors, kings,
and now, the faithful of the world.
[in French] We are the safe keepers
of this very profound testimony of love.
It is priceless.
[narrator in English]
The crown is so valuable
that when in public,
it's guarded at all times
by security agents
and 12 knights
from an ancient, noble order.
[Hubert in French]
The knights of the Equestrian Order
of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
are men and women who have decided
to help ensure the protection
of the holy relics
and in France, take part in the guarding
of the Holy Crown of Thorns.
My father, my grandfather,
my great-grandfather
were knights themselves.
The Crown of Thorns is the symbol
of this king
who gave up everything for us.
It's absolutely overwhelming.
You can only be touched
to the core of yourself.
God saved us.
[narrator in English]
The story of this relic
begins 2,000 years ago
on a hill outside Jerusalem.
Roman soldiers twist together thorny twigs
into the shape of a crown.
They roughly press it
onto the head of their prisoner,
calling him King of the Jews.
They force him to the top of a hill,
nail him to a wooden cross,
and leave the condemned man,
Jesus Christ, to die.
What happened that day
and in the days that followed,
changed the course of history.
But it's not just the story of that day
that has endured.
Passion relics are objects associated
with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
They are the relics that give you
a direct line to that sacrifice
that people believe
that he made for their sins.
When you're in close proximity
to one of these relics,
there is a sense, as close as you can,
you are connecting in person to Jesus.
So this could be the shroud
that he was wrapped in,
or it could be the Holy Grail,
or it could be the Crown of Thorns.
[Dr. Robert Cargill] The Crown of Thorns
was used to humiliate Jesus.
It was an impromptu creation
by the Romans,
used to mock Jesus.
And so, to preserve that
and turn it into something
that's used to honor Christ,
those are the kind of symbols that last.
[narrator] But how did this thorny crown
that might once have pierced Jesus' head
come to be displayed 2,000 years later
and 2,000 miles away in Paris?
The last known reference
to the Crown of Thorns being worshipped
or venerated in Jerusalem
actually dates to around 870.
But then the record goes dark.
The next reference to the Crown of Thorns
appears in the 10th century
in Constantinople,
which, of course, today is Istanbul,
in the private chapel of the emperor.
[narrator] The treasured crown
is kept locked away.
But every Easter,
it is put on display for the public.
Pilgrims who have journeyed
hundreds of miles
just to gaze upon the crown of Jesus
are astonished to see
the precious relic wither, die,
and then come back to life
in front of their eyes.
They return home with their tale
of the miraculous crown,
which died and was resurrected like Jesus.
Relics are like beacons for pilgrimages.
They are sacred spots and dots
that call to people,
that were so powerful,
it was thought that they had
a kind of radioactivity.
[Dr. Emma] The attraction of relics
for a lot of pilgrims is that
you can get, basically,
a quick access to God.
If you are suffering,
if you have something
that you desperately need,
even if you have a question,
going to a relic will channel
that divine power into you.
[Dr. Anthea] Millions of people
go on pilgrimages
in order to venerate these relics,
because they believe
that their lives will be changed.
This is why pilgrimages have been
happening for thousands of years
and still continue to happen today.
[woman in Spanish] What a view.
- [man] The scenery changes all the time.
- [woman] Yes.
[in English] The pilgrimage is a journey
with intention, with purpose.
There are different kinds of pilgrims.
There are the people who just want
a new kind of travel experience,
and then there's those times in life
when you come to a crossroads,
you don't know which way to turn,
you want to find a new inner direction.
And those are the moments
when people make long pilgrimages.
[narrator] Pilgrims from
all over the world
are drawn to Spain each year,
traveling 300 miles across the country,
from the Pyrenean mountains in the north
to the Mediterranean city of Valencia,
retracing what they believe
to be the route traveled
by the most contentious
and coveted relic of all
The Holy Grail.
[Alejandro Martinez in Spanish]
The part that I like most about this
is the part of following something
that happened more than 2,000 years ago.
And that the possibility
of following that route exists,
it seems incredible to me.
[in English]
Pilgrimage, for a lot of people,
is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,
and for other people, it is a regular part
of their practice as believers.
This is my third pilgrimage,
but not the last one.
I'm doing the pilgrimage
of the Santo Grial,
first of all, to help myself
to grow as a person.
You get into a quiet space,
very close to the meditation.
Living here and now,
which is very difficult in normal life.
Second, and no less important,
when you discover the power
of the Holy Grail,
which is the most wanted in the history,
it's like, "Wow."
The Holy Grail is so important
to so many believers.
It is the most direct connection to Jesus.
[Dr. Anthea] It is believed to be
the cup that Jesus
used at the Last Supper,
but it holds this very important place,
and not just Christian theology,
but in Christian lore and storytelling.
And that has imbued it
with a certain kind of power.
[in Spanish] We are at an iconic point
on the The Path of the Holy Grail
at the Castle of Loarre.
And why is it important, this point?
Because here it is said
that there were warrior monks
who protected the Grail for a long time.
Let's go.
[in English] In the medieval times,
some people thought that
the Grail was the source of youth
and the eternal life.
But I think the Grail means love.
This was the cup that Jesus Christ
had in his hand in the Last Supper
with the beautiful message
of "love each other as yourself."
Alex? Are you seeing a grail there?
[Alejandro in Spanish] Yes, yes.
[in English] Totally.
[in Spanish] And these must be the monks
protecting the Grail.
[Cristina] This is amazing.
[Alejandro] It's a great indication
that the chalice was here
and they've made a carving
to just leave a footprint.
Wow. [chuckles]
I'm really excited.
It just makes my hair stand on end.
I've had a disappointment with my faith,
and I don't believe
a lot of what is said by the church.
But the fact that
there is something physical
that has survived for 2,000 years,
that has survived intact, undamaged
Yes, it has reconnected me
with the love of Jesus Christ.
This is awesome.
It changes you. It changes your life.
[narrator in English]
The ultimate destination
for the generations of pilgrims
who travel the way of the Holy Grail
is Valencia Cathedral, 250 miles away.
Millions of Catholics believe
this is the final resting place
of the Cup of Christ.
This cup, venerated by Popes,
is kept in an exquisite gilded side chapel
under lock and key.
But today,
this grail that holds the myths,
desires and prayers of over a millennia
will be brought out for the public
under the protection
of its devoted guardian,
Don Álvaro Almenar.
[Almenar in Spanish] I am a priest
of the Cathedral, here in Valencia.
And custodian of The Holy Grail.
I am seeing with my own eyes
the same thing Jesus saw, no?
Every time we take the Holy Grail out,
it's a great responsibility
and that's thrilling, isn't it?
It touches my heart.
It's like it's something
too grandiose to touch
with something so simple
as our poor hands.
[narrator in English] For the Vatican,
these holy objects are so valuable
they are each assigned
a designated custodian.
[Almenar in Spanish]
I could never have imagined
being the custodian of The Holy Grail.
Because when I was little,
I saw the chalice locked in its cabinet,
protected by security,
something that seems impossible to touch.
But now, I see that
the Lord allows me to get close to it.
I'm the one that protects it,
that shows it to pilgrims
when they arrive.
[narrator in English]
For Cristina and Alejandro,
the chance to finally see the Holy Grail
will mark the end
of their life-changing pilgrimage.
[in Spanish] So excited! So excited!
So good. I'm so excited, I cannot breathe.
We have arrived.
- Almost there. We're here.
- We have arrived.
[priest in Spanish] Dear Brothers,
we have taken out the sacred relic
of the Holy Chalice
to celebrate the annual holy day.
We ask the Lord that
by contemplating this sacred relic,
we can renew our Christian life.
Praise be forever this relic
that must lead us to contemplate
the holy mystery of our Lord.
[Jason in English]
If you go to Valencia,
and you find in front of you
the Holy Chalice,
you feel there, right?
You feel like you're 2,000 years ago.
Your faith is alive,
because this story is alive,
because what you believe to be true
is in front of your eyes.
[Dr. Cynthia Hahn]
It is an important object.
There's no doubt it's an important object.
But whether it's the true chalice
from the Last Supper,
that's something we cannot say.
[Dr. Guy] The Holy Grail is an enigma.
The truth is that
there are several chalices
that claim to be the Cup of Christ.
As with most relics,
the history has become
so intertwined with the legend,
that the truth has become hard to uncover.
And so the search
for The Holy Grail continues.
[narrator] For centuries,
pilgrims have spread stories
of the power and wonder of relics
through their own journeys
of faith and discovery.
But the greatest journeys of all
belong to the relics themselves.
And none more so than
the one and only Crown of Thorns,
whose remarkable story
lies at the heart of a nation.
[Frédéric in French]
We are in front of Notre-Dame de Paris.
This cathedral took
approximately 100 years to build
and has stood here for 860 years.
The first time I went to Notre Dame,
I was 20.
And it is true that
I've held onto that great emotion
because it is the cathedral of Paris,
but also because it is where
the major events in our history
took place,
and above all,
because it contains the Crown of Thorns.
It makes Notre-Dame a significant place
in the whole of Christianity.
[narrator in English]
But how did this fragile relic,
last seen in the private chapel
of a Byzantine emperor,
end up in Paris?
The answer lies just a stone's throw away,
in the Royal Chapel of Sainte-Chapelle.
The Saint-Chapelle is unlike anything
anyone's seen in Europe at the time.
Its walls are comprised mainly of glass.
The interior is covered in gold.
You feel like you're walking in light.
[narrator] Illustrated in
the stained glass windows
is the story of how the crown
arrived here from Constantinople.
By the 13th century,
Constantinople is in rapid decline.
It's still the capital
of the Byzantine Empire,
but it's on its way down
and it's essentially broke.
The city is starving.
People are threatened with invasion.
They're so broke that they start
stripping off the bronze
of beautiful early Christian churches,
melting it down and selling it.
[narrator] The situation in Constantinople
is so desperate
that one day, Emperor Baldwin
discovers his barons have pawned
the priceless Crown of Thorns
to a wealthy Venetian trader.
But Baldwin has a plan,
and pays a visit to his cousin,
King Louis IX of France.
Baldwin turns to King Louis and says,
"Will you help me?"
"Will you save these objects?"
"In fact, what if you paid
for the mortgage?"
"That would make you, worthy cousin,
the new custodian of the Crown of Thorns."
[Dr. Robert] King Louis
has the opportunity
to acquire the Crown of Thorns
for 135,000 livres,
which is just a ridiculous
amount of money.
[Dr. Nicola]
But he's willing to bet it all,
he's willing to put it all out there
in order to have this relic.
That's how important it was for him.
Louis leapt at the opportunity
to become the owner of Christ's crown.
[narrator] But first,
the King must get his hands
on the precious object.
Louis orders two friars,
Jacques and André,
to Constantinople, laden with gold,
to buy the crown back from the Venetian.
But they're too late.
The relic and its new owner
have already left.
The friars must now
pursue the crown to Italy,
battling huge waves,
and chased by bloodthirsty pirates,
determined to steal the king's money.
The two friars make it to Venice,
where they are finally able
to buy the crown for their king.
They then travel the 600 miles
back to France,
where an anxious Louis is waiting.
Barefoot, the King humbly carries
the Crown of Thorns
through the streets of Paris.
So, Louis manages to procure
this Crown of Thorns at great cost.
It just about bankrupts France,
that's how much money it was.
Louis was already incredibly pious,
but he also would have realized
this was an opportunity
to present to the world stage
his superiority,
to strengthen the power
he had across Europe.
Christ crowning the king of France.
[in French] The possession
of the Crown of Thorns
gives the King of France
preeminence over other Kings.
The King of France is the one
who holds the Crown of Thorns,
who is there to defend it.
[narrator in English]
For hundreds of years,
the crown is safely housed
in the Chapel of Saint-Chapelle
as the most treasured,
private possession of France's kings,
until 1789,
when the monarchy and the crown
are threatened by revolution.
[Dr. Emily] There's a great challenge
to the divine right of kings.
The crown as a symbol of the king,
is dangerous then.
[Dr. Emma] During the French Revolution,
there was a profound fear
that the revolutionaries might destroy
the Crown of Thorns.
So, King Louis XVI had the crown
put into hiding to protect it.
[narrator] King Louis XVI would ultimately
lose his head to the revolutionaries,
but thanks to his actions,
like those of his ancestors,
the Crown of Thorns survives.
After 1803,
there was a desire
to salvage these lost objects,
which had been hidden
during the Revolution,
the ones that survived,
and to put them in Notre Dame.
And there they functioned
in a much more kind of civic fashion.
They were no longer the kind of
at the kind of fingertips
of a king or a ruler.
They were for the community.
[choir singing]
[narrator] The lives of the people
who work at Notre Dame
have become inextricably linked
with the story and fate
of the crown that lies at its heart.
[Yves Castagnet in French] It is true.
It's an inanimate object, indeed.
What fascinates me is what's behind it.
I am an organist,
and for almost 35 years now,
I have had the pleasure of being
the organist at Notre-Dame Cathedral.
I was lucky to be often
in very close contact with this relic.
It is a vehicle
that inspires a lot of fervor and faith,
just like music.
[Henri Chalet in French]
Notre Dame is our second home.
That is to say that
we are there every evening,
since we run all the services,
more than a thousand a year.
We have this exhibition
of the Crown of Thorns,
which allows people to go and venerate it.
This exhibition is an absolutely
magical moment to see,
whether we are believers or not.
To see all the people
who come to venerate it,
it's still quite moving to see all this.
It is wonderful to see
people's reactions to the crown.
There are amazed people
who can't believe their eyes.
There are people who are upset.
There are men and women crying.
The first time I saw the Crown of Thorns
was on a Good Friday,
and there were a lot of people,
a lot of people.
You had to wait a very long time
to be able to approach the crown.
But when you're in front of the crown,
you feel like you're all alone.
We have the impression
that God is looking at us
and that's the feeling I get every time.
And I almost want to cry every time.
[narrator in English] For 300 years,
the faithful flocked to Notre Dame
to worship and pray
before this remarkable relic,
until one fateful day in 2019
when the crown's epic tale of survival
took another dramatic turn.
[Yves in French] It was a spring day.
The weather was good, so I think
I believe I had the windows open.
And I remember I was working at my desk.
And next door, in the next room,
there was a television playing
the news channels continuously.
[woman on TV speaking in French]
After a while, I hear, "Notre Dame"
"Emmanuel Macron," "Notre-Dame"
"Notre-Dame, Notre-Dame."
I end up hearing that,
and then why is he talking
about Notre Dame?
I'm lucky enough to live very, very close
to the Cathedral, 50 meters away.
So I put on a coat, I went downstairs
and then I saw it up close.
[in English] Breaking news crossing
right now at this moment in Paris.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is on fire.
People are lining the pavements
here in Paris,
staring up at the sky
at the plumes of smoke billowing
out of Notre-Dame Cathedral,
visible across Paris.
[Henri in French]
I was at the Ministry of Culture.
The phone kept ringing non-stop.
I got a hundred messages.
The first message I read,
it only said,
"I suppose you know what's going on,"
and I didn't know anything about it.
So I said to myself, "There is a problem.
I'm going to see what's happening."
[Yves] You don't realize,
you say, "No, it's not true."
"It's not reality.
It's not happening, it's not possible."
And from that moment on,
it was stupefying.
[Captain Franck] I always wanted to be
a firefighter since I was a kid.
Saving, helping people,
providing assistance.
[speaking French]
It's more than a job, it's a passion.
From one day to the next,
is never the same.
[Captain Franck]
That day we meet for coffee,
to do a short briefing for the day.
Before checking the equipment
is working in the fire engines,
in the machines, if it is operational.
[Officer Fabrice] I have one of my men
coming into my office and tells me,
"My Chief Warrant Officer,
Notre Dame is on fire."
And then I tell him,
"No, you're kidding, it's not possible."
Notre Dame on fire is something
unimaginable for a Parisian.
Even for a Parisian firefighter.
It is an emblem for the capital itself,
if not the world.
We came out of Les Halles tunnel,
where the exit is right in front
of the cathedral,
and at that moment, I saw that
the spire was completely ablaze,
engulfed by flames,
and it was something quite remarkable.
[in English] Fire crews from across Paris
have come here
to save whatever they possibly can.
And the striking thing,
standing among the crowds
on the banks of the Seine,
is just the silence,
the quiet of people
stunned by the destruction
of not just a great
French cultural artifact,
but of one that belonged to the world.
[Henri in French] It's just a building,
but we were there every night
and so it was our home.
It was hard because we can't do anything.
That's what's hard.
Excuse me.
It's coming back.
I need a breath.
I thought I wouldn't cry anymore over it.
[Captain Franck]
When I got to the tactical command post,
that's when they give me the mission
of saving the artifacts,
and more specifically,
rescuing the Crown of Thorns.
It is a mission that is unusual.
It was something new for me.
[Officer Fabrice] My dad often took me
to visit the Cathedral,
and so, as a young boy,
I had seen paintings, sculptures.
But I had no idea
that it was the Crown of Thorns
preserved in Notre-Dame.
[Hubert] We were extremely afraid
that it would be crushed
that it would disappear in this fire.
So it was a great anguish.
I prayed to the Virgin Mary,
for her to protect this
absolutely priceless relic.
[Frédéric] Christ's Crown of Thorns
is more important
than Notre Dame Cathedral,
which we can rebuild anyway.
It was essential to save it.
[Captain Franck] I am given a whole list
of artifacts that are inside,
which were located with a map.
On this map, the main one was missing.
The Crown of Thorns.
The idea being that,
since it was so precious,
we don't want to explain where it is,
and so we don't show it in any document.
Without knowing where it is precisely,
we're going to find it.
[Officer Fabrice] It was like
nothing I've ever experienced
in my life as a firefighter.
It was raining ash.
And the smell of burnt wood,
it was as if you were
dealing with a forest fire.
And this roof that could potentially
collapse on us at any moment.
[in English] Firefighters continue
to try and fight the flames,
but their efforts seem
absolutely powerless
in the face of the magnitude of the fire.
[Captain Franck in French]
We needed to act quickly.
We looked under the altars,
we tried to look behind paintings,
chairs and tables.
We didn't know exactly where to look.
[In English] Fire broke out
when the church was closing to visitors.
Flames burst through the roof,
and now, thick, heavy smoke
drifts over the heart of Paris,
as flames ravage the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Countless priceless artifacts and artwork
are threatened.
Notre Dame includes the Crown of Thorns.
Were that to be lost,
that would be devastating
to the Christian world.
[in French] We finally found it
behind a glass frame,
a golden crown made of thorns.
And at that moment, we were able
to remove the Crown of Thorns.
When you fulfil the mission
you've been given,
it's satisfying knowing that
it was really crucial to the operation
to save the treasure.
However, the celebrations
were short-lived.
I came out of the sacristy,
and it was there that I learned
the crown was in fact a display copy.
It wasn't the real one.
So we had to go on the offensive again
in search of the crown.
The real one.
[President Macron] So it burns.
It is burning and I know this sadness.
This inner trembling
felt by so many of our fellow citizens.
But tonight,
I also want to talk about hope.
Above all, I want to say
a few thoughts and thanks
for the firefighters in Paris.
Nearly 500 of them have been fighting
for several hours
against the flames and are still fighting.
There was a knowledge that there was
something unique in the cathedral
that we could not lose,
that could not burn,
that there are people who,
perhaps at the risk of their lives,
have gone to find that
which needed to be saved.
[Captain Franck]
The cathedral manager arrived.
They told us that it was in a safe.
But he was a little bit shocked
by the situation,
and struggled to explain to us
exactly where this safe was.
I remembered that there was a grey box
that I initially thought
was a transformer.
I said, "Maybe that's it."
[people singing]
[Captain Franck] This safe worked
with a code made on several locks.
I evidently asked the manager
for this code.
It was pretty chaotic at the time,
and he was
unable to remember this infamous code.
We needed to find another way
to open the safe.
[Captain Franck]
I contacted the command post
to ask for machinery
to break open the safe.
But in the meantime,
the manager managed to get the code,
and finally, the safe could be opened
and the Crown of Thorns
was able to be withdrawn,
just as the grinders
were about to make their first cut.
The fire had just been defeated, barely.
The firemen stopped the fire
by taking the most extreme risks.
What we've seen this night in Paris
is the capacity to mobilize,
to unite, so we can overcome.
This fire, I daren't say it,
but such a dramatic event,
such a horrible event,
generates positive things.
The fire at Notre-Dame
allowed the French to realize
how lucky they were to have
the Crown of Thorns in France.
I think so. I think so.
[Olivier] It is indeed another chapter
in this long history.
The firefighters knew they were not
simply saving a building,
but were saving something
from the soul of France
and the soul of Christianity.
[narrator in English]
Next on Mysteries of the Faith
For thousands of years,
relics have been believed
to perform miracles.
[woman 1 in Italian] I don't think
I can explain what happened.
I believe that the Holy Face
saves my life every day.
[woman 2 in English]
What could be more powerful,
a sign that God is at work, than that?
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