A Little Update on the Notre Dame Restoration Project
May 7, 2021
Written by Shan Arcega
Photos courtesy of Alexis Komenda
It’s been two years since the catastrophic fire. Ever wonder how the cathedral rebuild is doing now?
The Notre Dame de Paris is the most famous gothic cathedral from the middle ages. It was initiated by the bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully who thought of transforming the two previous basilicas into one cathedral. Even before, this beautiful icon of Gothic architecture has been undergoing rebuilds as if its magnificence still had yet to be fully uncovered. In 1163, Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone and consecrated the altar by 1189. By 1250, the choir, western facade, and the nave were completed while other additions like the porches and chapels were added over the next 100 years.
The icon of Paris, construction of the church began in 1163 and continued on for the next 200 years. But on April 15, 2019, and right during a restoration campaign, the church suffered through a devastating fire that erupted from the cathedral attic, destroying most of the roof, Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century spire, and some of the rib vaulting.
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Two years after this fire, the cathedral is still undergoing massive restoration which involves using the local oak trees for rebuilding the burned sections of the cathedral. Currently, 200 construction workers are on-site, working to rebuild the cathedral by what French president, Emmanuel Macron hopes to be a time before Paris hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics on July 26, 2024. According to the president of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, Michael Picaud however, this deadline sounds to be much too early to flaunt a successful rebuild.
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In an interview with Architectural Digest, Picaud says this aim poses a difficult question. Even after the cathedral possibly reopens in 2024, the rebuilding process is one that will continue years after the cathedral reopens.
So far, it was made known that all the burned timbers have been removed despite the gaping hole in its roof. The team is also building a replica of the church’s spire. Designed by 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet-de-Duc, the spire is made up of over 1,000 oak trees collected from all over France’s public and private forests.
The team is working to cut and collect these trees before they sap. After 12 to 18 months of storing, these trees will be used for the reconstruction phase which is said to start in the spring of 2022. The trees collected also need to reach the required length that fits an overhead curve of 65 feet long in order to restore the roof’s nave and choir. According to the director-general of the National Forestry Office, Bertrand Munch, some of the trees are already over 200 years old.
Preparing these trees for the rebuild is a long process but Notre Dame has been privy to long reconstruction phases. And like any work of art, patience is key to rebuilding this iconic structure into its former magnificence.