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Statues on Notre Dame spire removed days before blaze

The 13th-century spire that sat atop Notre Dame Cathedral may be gone, but in a wildly serendipitous twist of fate, the 16 religious statues which adorned it are safe.

On Thursday, April 11, for the first time since their installation more than 150 years ago, the 12-foot-tall copper statues were removed from the spire for cleaning, according to Agence France-Presse. This was just four days before Notre Dame erupted in flames, which left much of the structure damaged and destroyed the cathedral's spire.

The 12-foot-tall copper statues were affixed to Notre Dame's spire during architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc's massive restoration project that spanned from 1845-1870. The figures represent The 12 Apostles and four evangelists, and have rarely been seen up close.

The statues' removal was part of a massive restoration project financed by the French state. Each one was lifted off Notre Dame's spire by a 300-foot crane and slowly lowered to the ground as lucky onlookers took in the once-in-a-lifetime sight.

The whole removal process took one day, and the statues were then sent off to a specialized restorer in the Dordogne region of southwest France.

Before the cathedral caught fire, officials were planning to put the statues on display inside of the cathedral until 2022, when they would be returned to their original perch.

Now that the spire has been destroyed and new renovation plans are already being drafted, the immediate future of the statues is uncertain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.