Notre-Dame Cathedral remains on track to reopen in 2024. The announcement comes as officials say the Parisian landmark has been entirely secured and restoration may begin safely.
The “safety phase” of restoration included lead decontamination; fortifying the north, south, and west gables; fortifying the most damaged pillars of the nave; reinforcing the flying buttresses; and wrapping and protecting the gargoyles and other sculptural elements of the north and south towers, according to the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris.
“We’re officially saying that the cathedral is now saved; that it’s solid on its pillars, that its walls are solid,” General Jean-Louis Georgelin, former head of France’s armed forces who now leads the government’s Notre-Dame restoration task force, told French broadcaster BFM-TV. “We’ll be able to firmly go ahead with the phase of restoring and rebuilding the parts destroyed by the fire, so that it’s ready to reopen for services and public visits in 2024.”
A Famous Cathedral
Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris (or Notre-Dame de Paris, “Our Lady of Paris”) — immortalized by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame — is famous around the world. Located on a small island called the Ile de la Cite in the middle of the River Seine, it is one of the first Gothic cathedrals that feature sculptures and stained-glass windows, Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris explains.
To put the cathedral’s size and complexity in perspective, its construction began in 1163. However, it took more than 300 years to complete.
Notre-Dame Cathedral also is known for its historic neighbors: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Place de la Concorde. In fact, the entire area, known as “Paris, Banks of the Seine,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Devastating Fire
A fire that is believed to have been caused by an electrical short caused extensive damage to Notre-Dame on April 15, 2019. The “ferocious blaze,” an article from The Guardian explains, “brought the cathedral’s 96-metre (315-feet) lead and wood spire, a landmark of the Paris skyline, crashing on to the stone roof-vaults.”
Immediately after the fire, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that reconstruction work on Notre-Dame would be completed within 5 years — coinciding with when Paris is to host the 2024 Olympics.
That plan seemed ambitious, especially as restoration efforts suffered numerous setbacks. For instance, a large amount of toxic lead from the cathedral’s roof was deposited on the surrounding area, which necessitated the lead decontamination efforts. Then severe winter storms caused delays before France’s COVID-19 lockdown, which further delayed work.
Open, But Not Fully Restored
While Notre-Dame has been secured, a significant amount of restoration work must be done. In the meantime, the cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month, French news and current affairs public radio station RFI reports.
The cathedral’s famous Grand Organ is also being repaired. Its 8,000 pipes have been dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France for restoration. General Georgelin says in the RFI article that the organ is expected to be reassembled in October 2023.
Although several small ceremonies have been held in the cathedral while restoration work is in process, Christophe Rousselot, general delegate for the Foundation Notre-Dame, says Notre-Dame won’t be completely open in 2024.
However, the church will most not likely be open in its entirety, indicated Christophe Rousselot, general delegate for the Fondation Notre-Dame.
“The cathedral will be ready to open toward the end of 2024, but the restoration will not be fully finished,” Rousselot says in the RFI article. “There will, however, most likely be a ceremony to open the Olympic Games though.”
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