Restoration work on Notre Dame in Paris is ready to begin after the work to shore it up has been completed. The announcement comes two years after a fire gutted much of the iconic 800-year-old cathedral and sent its spire crashing through the vaults below, officials said on Saturday.
Soon after the suspicious April 2019 blaze, French President Emmanuel Macron said the cathedral would be rebuilt and later promised to get it reopened to worshippers by 2024, when France hosts the Olympic Games.
The final phase of efforts to secure its structure included reinforcing the fire-damaged vaults with giant wooden arch-shaped frames, the state agency leading the work said, adding that it was on track to meet Macron’s reopening target date.
The cathedral will be restored to its previous design, including the 96-meter (315-feet) spire designed by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-1800s and for which new timber has been selected.
Restoration work is expected to start during the coming months following a bidding process to select companies. Before that, a cleaning operation for the building’s interior walls and floor will start this month, the agency said in a statement.
The fire at Notre Dame caused shock in France and around the world. Tearful Parisians and stunned tourists gazed in disbelief while the inferno raged at the cathedral, which marks the very center of Paris.
While an investigation continues, arsonists have destroyed some of Europe’s most historic cathedrals and churches over the last 5 years.
In France alone, the number is staggering.
Six major French cathedrals and churches have caught fire during the last two-three years: Notre Dame, Nantes, Rennes, Saint-Sulpice, Lavaur and Pontoise. Perhaps that is why historian Rémi Brague called the fire at Notre Dame “our 9/11”. The Observatory of Religious Heritage listed a total of 20 French churches that caught fire in just one year.
Little publicized and less condemned, attacks against Christian places of worship in France are multiplying and reaching alarming proportions. The Nantes fire was simply the latest in a succession of church destructions that have been going on for years and have apparently not scandalized anyone.
Five years ago, the Saint-Nicolas Basilica in Nantes was almost destroyed by fire. It had completed a renovation in 2014 and was in perfect condition. The first reports in the French media about the vandalism of churches were published ten years ago. Last year, there was one week in which four French churches were desecrated.