14 months after the devastating fire that shocked the world, the Notre-Dame restoration resumes after Covid-19 deconfinement.
With the coronavirus lockdown easing and Paris returning to a more normal state, work at the cathedral is starting back up.
We give an update on the latest progress, as one of our city’s top landmarks waits for a return to its former glory.
The fateful day of April 15, 2019
Last April, we all watched in horror as Notre-Dame caught fire.
As we reported in our blog at the time, the fire started around 6.50 pm on Monday, April 15, 2019, quickly engulfing the 850-year old cathedral.
A pivotal moment came when the spire fell, permanently changing Paris’s most distinctive Gothic building forever.
As Notre-Dame continued to burn through the night, thousands of Parisians gathered to watch. Most were silent, others said quiet prayers or sang hymns.
The firefighters left the smoldering building at dawn. They managed to save the main stone structure and its pair of bell towers. But the fire ravaged much of this Paris icon.
Removal of the scaffolding begins
On the day of the fire, Notre-Dame was already surrounded by scaffolding. This was part of the ongoing restoration work at the time. The spire was one of the key elements being restored.
As the building burned, the metal scaffolds deformed in the heat, before welding together. This made the removal of the old scaffolding a huge undertaking.
They have remained this way ever since. But now, the next stage of restoration is beginning, with the removal of the old scaffolding. With 40,000 pieces and a total weight of 200 tons, this is a complicated task.
In a new press statement, the public establishment responsible for the restoration says, “A second scaffolding is now in place, so teams of rope technicians can descend as close as possible to the burnt-out parts. Using saber saws, they are cutting away the metal tubes melted on top of each other. This operation will take place throughout the summer.”
To begin this task, the workers will be rappelling down the façade of the cathedral, as seen in a series of photos published on the BBC News website.
Delays to the Notre-Dame restoration
Many Parisians are eager to see that the Notre-Dame restoration continues as soon as possible.
President Macron requested the completion of the work within five years. That would be a reopening date of 2024. But in a short space of time, there were unavoidable delays that made this look unlikely
Last summer remedial work against possible lead contamination put the reconstruction on hold. Later, bad weather and gale-force winds caused further delays.
And of course, by March 2020 the coronavirus pandemic shut down the work completely.
Now the cathedral square is back open to the public. As the Notre-Dame restoration resumes, the latest scaffolding work is hopefully the start of a phoenix beginning to rise from the ashes.
The Notre-Dame restoration: Traditional or Modern?
The debate continues what the restored Notre-Dame will look like. An exact replica of the building as we remember it? Or a contemporary reimagining for the 21st-century?
It’s a controversial topic and something we discussed in our previous update on the fire back in October last year.
At the time, French newspaper Le Figaro held a poll, suggesting that 55% of French respondents demand a spire identical to the original.
And despite many architects putting forward plans for an ultra-modern redesign, the details are not yet confirmed.
It is another unknown, as we wait to see what the future holds for Notre-Dame.
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