Restoration Work Finally Set to Begin on Notre Dame Cathedral
The great Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, literally, “Our Lady of Paris” is a historically celebrated 12th-century monument, which was already in urgent need of expensive repairs in the 21st century. Things came to a head in 2019, when a fire broke out in the attic beneath the cathedral’s roof, causing extensive damage to a key structural portion of this world-famous 850-year-old monument. It took 15 hours to extinguish the blaze. And millions were pledged for Notre Dame’s restoration. After years of work to stabilize the structure, the restoration is now set to begin!
French president Emmanuel Macron has pledged Notre Dame restoration will be completed by the beginning of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, reports CNN.
The Notre Dame restoration project is well underway, and projections are that the cathedral will reopen again in 2024, five years after the disastrous fire that destroyed fundamental structural elements and a lot more! Source: Rebatir Notre Dame de Paris
The Notre Dame Restoration Project: Ambitious Expectations
The organization Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris (Rebuild Notre-Dame) is in charge of the Notre Dame restoration project. The group posted a statement confirming Macron’s message for 2024 reopening on Facebook on Saturday.
Notre Dame, the Parisian Gothic landmark, an irreplaceable symbol of French heritage, came very close to collapsing entirely at one point during the fire, as the world watched in horror. However, the famous cathedral was “saved”, and the structure has been entirely secured, a process that has taken years already. Now, the final phases of the Notre Dame restoration work are expected to begin in earnest.
The securing work or the safety phase included wrapping and protecting the cathedral’s gargoyles, reinforcing its flying buttresses, fortifying the gables, and removing the burned scaffolding. The ancient scaffolding alone included a whopping 40,000 pieces of damaged wood!
To secure its structure, the fire damaged vaults were replaced by wooden arches, reports The Guardian. The most serious damage was to the leaden roof and spire, which went up in flames in minutes. This reportedly caused a public health emergency from lead toxicity in the air, for people living in areas adjacent to the cathedral.
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For the safety phase, dozens of carpenters, scaffolding experts, professional climbers, organ mechanics and others were heavily involved. They constructed special temporary structures to secure the towers, vaults and walls of the huge roofless structure, and a special “umbrella” to protect it from the weather, reports The Daily Mail.
The ground floor interior of the Notre Dame restoration project. (Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris)
The collective, Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, has been seeking donations to help restore the body of the cathedral, along with dozens of destroyed gargoyles, statues, and paintings. Donations have poured in from around the world, including major contributions from France’s wealthiest families, who within days had pledged nearly one billion dollars (852,362,300 Euros) to rebuild the cathedral.
Until last year, Macron was hell-bent on building a modern spire atop the cathedral but had to drop the idea after widespread public opposition, including protests from heritage conservationists. The cathedral will now be restored its original glory and previous design, which includes a 315 feet (96 meter) spire designed by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-1800s.
One hundred tenders for various projects will be floated, and bids for the same will be put out to attract the best companies.
"The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together," said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral, and the former head of France’s armed forces. "We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France's honor to do so, and we will do so because we are all united on this goal."
Cross-section of the double supporting arches and buttresses of the nave, drawn by late 19th-century French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, as they would have appeared from 1220 to 1230. Viollet-le-Duc also designed the cathedral’s spire. (Public domain)
The Notre-Dame de Paris: A Brief History
Every year before the horrible 2019 Notre Dame fire, more than 13 million people flock to see the legendary French gothic cathedral, which remains Europe’s most popular monument. It was commissioned by Maurice de Sully, the Bishop of Paris, in 1160 AD. Over the next 100 years, several different layers and embellishments were added. Notre Dame only underwent major restoration work once during the Middle Ages (5th to the late 15th centuries AD).
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Notre Dame’s original central spire was replaced in the 19th century under the tutelage of French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, due to serious instability issues.
The cathedral was briefly ransacked and then rescued when Napoleon anointed himself emperor in 1804, during the chaotic French revolution period.
Notre Dame became a part of the public imagination with Victor Hugo’s stunningly successful novel, Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), which was one of the reasons that led to the building’s renovation in the same century.
After the fire in 2019, the French national research organization, CNRS, embarked upon an expensive study of the medieval-era building, reported Nature. This includes unprecedented access to the cathedral’s fabric, metalwork, woodwork, and the foundations of the building.
This was undertaken with the purpose of helping the restoration process, but also to ensure that a tragedy of such epic proportions does not occur again.
Top image: Notre Dame restoration work in progress. Much of this restoration revolves around giant pieces of wood to rebuild key structural areas and scaffolding destroyed by the disastrous 2019 fire at the cathedral. Source: JEROME LABOUYRIE / Adobe Stock
By Sahir Pandey
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Henley, J. 2019. Notre Dame Cathedral fire – a visual guide and timeline. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/16/notre-dame-cathedral-fire-a-visual-guide-and-timeline.
Lewis, L. 2021. Notre Dame is finally declared stable enough for repairs to begin more than two years after historic cathedral was devastated by fire. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10004271/Notre-Dame-finally-declared-stable-repairs-begin.html.
Lukpat, A. 2021. Stabilized Notre-Dame Cathedral Is on Track for 2024 Reopening, Officials Say. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/18/world/europe/notre-dame-cathedral-restoration.html.