Reconstruction progress of Notre-Dame de Paris 2019-2022

The Notre-Dame de Paris spire fell on April 15, 2019, after a fire destroyed the centuries-old landmark. On the night of the fire, Macron said that the cathedral would be rebuilt, and launched an international fundraising campaign. The goal, according to French president Emmanuel Macron, is to have the church repaired before the city hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics, which is slated to begin on July 26, 2024.

It’s been three years since a fire ripped through Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. Now that the 12th-century monument is secured, reconstruction efforts are underway. The current status of the restoration is posted regularly by the organisation the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral is one of the most iconic monuments in Paris and France. It is located on the Ile de la Cité and is a Catholic place of worship, seat of the Archdiocese of Paris, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the French nation. The cathedral inspires many artistic works, in particular the 1831 publication of Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris inspired popular interest in the cathedral. Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris.

Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, whose construction began in the 12th century, is the jewel of the arrondissement. Crossing its spacious esplanade, admire the details of its magnificent Gothic facade. The towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral with one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Paris. The upper room reveals an admirable Gothic architecture vaulted, approach the famous gargoyles, including the famous Stryge, the belfry, the bells and the Emmanuel dome. Discover in its crypt the foundation stones near the banks of the Seine, which date back to Roman times.

Begun at the instigation of Bishop Maurice de Sully, its construction spanned approximately two centuries, from 1163 to the middle of the 14th century. After the French Revolution, the cathedral benefited between 1845 and 1867 from a major, sometimes controversial, restoration under the direction of the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who incorporated unpublished elements and motifs into it. For these reasons, the style is not totally uniform: the cathedral has characteristics of primitive Gothic and radiant Gothic. The two rose windows that adorn each of the arms of the transept are among the largest in Europe.

The cathedral is linked to many episodes in the history of France. Royal parish church in the Middle Ages, it hosted the arrival of the Holy Crown in 1239, then the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804, the baptism of Henri d’Artois, the Duke of Bordeaux, in 1821, as well as the funeral of several Presidents of the French Republic (Adolphe Thiers, Sadi Carnot, Paul Doumer, Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand). It is also under its vaults that a Magnificat was sung during the liberation of Paris in 1944. The 850th anniversary of its construction was celebrated in 2013.

Most of the wood/metal roof and the spire of the cathedral was destroyed, with about one third of the roof remaining. The remnants of the roof and spire fell atop the stone vault underneath, which forms the ceiling of the cathedral’s interior. Some sections of this vaulting collapsed in turn, allowing debris from the burning roof to fall to the marble floor below, but most sections remained intact due to the use of rib vaulting, greatly reducing damage to the cathedral’s interior and objects within.

The cathedral contained a large number of artworks, religious relics, and other irreplaceable treasures, including a crown of thorns said to be the one Jesus wore at his crucifixion, a purported piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, the Tunic of St. Louis, a much-rebuilt pipe organ by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and the 14th-century Virgin of Paris statue. Some artwork had been removed in preparation for the renovations, and most of the cathedral’s sacred relics were held in the adjoining sacristy, which the fire did not reach; all the cathedral’s relics survived.

Lead joints in some of the 19th-century stained-glass windows melted, but the three major rose windows, dating to the 13th century, were undamaged. One weakened window may need to be dismantled for safekeeping. Several pews were destroyed and the vaulted arches were blackened by smoke, though the church’s main cross and altar survived, along with the statues surrounding it.

Some paintings, apparently only smoke-damaged, are expected to be transported to the Louvre for restoration. A number of statues, including those of the twelve Apostles at the base of the spire, had been removed in preparation for renovations. The rooster-shaped reliquary atop the spire was found damaged but intact among the debris. The three pipe organs were not significantly damaged. The largest of the cathedral’s bells, the bourdon, was not damaged. The liturgical treasury of the cathedral and the “grands Mays” paintings were moved to safety.

On the day of the disaster, President Macron announced that the cathedral would be “rebuilt” and the following day, during a special televised address, he declared: “We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautiful, and I want that to be completed within five years”. The following day, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that an international architectural competition was to be launched to “rebuild” the spire of the cathedral. Then General Jean-Louis Georgelin was appointed head of a special representation mission “to ensure the progress of the procedures and work that will be undertaken”. The government is also giving itself the possibility of creating a public establishment to carry out this restoration.

Following consultations, numerous reconstruction proposals were received. French society conducted a series of public interviews and debates on these plans in the media, and it was concluded that the desire of the French people was to restore the original appearance of the Notre-Dame. French President Emmanuel Macron approved plans to rebuild Notre-Dame in a historically accurate manner on July 9, 2020.

Official Decision
Receive updates regarding Notre-Dame after fire restoration progress. Notre Dame restorationOn July 9, 2020 the chief architects of Historical Monuments presented restoration plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral to the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture (CNPA), the advisory council that handles important restoration projects in France. The study presented plans to respect the previously existing structure of the cathedral and to restore the monument to its last complete, coherent and known state.

Receive updates regarding Notre-Dame after fire restoration progressThis includes rebuilding a spire identical to the one designed in the 19th Century by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, returning the cathedral’s appearance to how it existed before the fire of April 15, 2019. Rebuilding efforts will also use original materials, like wood for the roofing. The report states that these restoration measures will ensure the authenticity, harmony and coherence of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

CNPA unanimously approved the architects’ recommendations that Notre-Dame Cathedral be restored to its prior state. The French President Emmanuel Macron also shared his approval for this decision. As of April 2021, 1,000 oak trees were cut from roughly 200 French forests to make the frame for the cathedral’s transept and spire.

Although technically sufficient to restore the original appearance, the restored Notre-Dame can only be guaranteed to be visually consistent, as some contemporary techniques will be used to replace outdated architectural techniques from the Middle Ages. There is not any incompatibility in bringing modernity to the reconstruction, today’s heritage is a superposition of eras, each century or so will have left its mark on the cathedral.

2021, France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission approved plans for Notre-Dame’s interior renovations, according to Agence France-Presse. Those proposed changes include modern lighting effects like projecting Bible quotes onto the walls, as well as possibly adding art installations to the 19th-century confessionals from street artists like Ernest Pignon-Ernest and modern artists including Louise Bourgeois.

The first step for Notre-Dame’s roof and spire reconstruction was the safety phase, which started in the summer of 2019 and lasted until November 2020. After the raging fire was extinguished, it was immediately necessary to ensure the stability of the remaining main body of the building, and necessary strengthening measures were adopted to protect the cathedral from the danger of collapse. Burnt scaffolding and wood also need to be removed, and these unstable structures may lead to new collapses.

In order to rebuild with similar materials and techniques used when the rest of Notre-Dame was built in the 12th century, skilled artisans including quarrymen, carpenters, mortar makers, and master stonecutters would need to be hired. At present, there is a serious shortage of craftsmen who master these techniques. Another challenge is to building a replica of the church’s spire that was initially designed by 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, made of more than 1,000 donated oak trees from public and private forests from all over France.

In the days following the fire, Macron set a five-year restoration deadline, in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. According to experts familiar with medieval restoration work, it could take about 15 to 20 years to rebuild the roof, spire, and parts of stone vaulting that fell through to the main sanctuary. However, officials said they aim for Notre-Dame to be open for a “return to worship” by Macron’s 2024 deadline before the full restoration is complete.

Another challenge is that Notre Dame cannot be opened to the public during the restoration period, which means that at this stage, ticket revenue cannot be relied on to support restoration work, and all restoration funds rely on grants and donations.

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was not insured with an insurance company by the State, its owner, since it is its own insurer. The scope of the insurance taken out by the diocesan association, assignee of the cathedral, was being analyzed by its insurer a few days after the fire, but would only concern religious objects and works of art held or kept by her. The amount of any compensation for the companies involved in the early renovation operations, if their liability were held, would in any case be insufficient to cover the reconstruction work.

The cathedral fire had a worldwide impact. Stunned by this event still in progress, people immediately wanted to express their attachment to the monument through financial and in-kind donations that the State is trying to organize, so as to allow the renovation of Notre-Dame. As of 22 April 2019, donations of over €1 billion have been pledged for the cathedral’s reconstruction, at least €880 million of that in less than a day after Macron’s decidion.

While the stained-glass rose windows, rectangular towers, and priceless Christian relics all survived the blaze, the Gothic church remains closed to the public as reconstruction continues.

By November 2020, workers successfully removed all the scaffolding that had been in place around the spire for an earlier renovation project when the fire broke out. Scaffolding was built around the cathedral to restore the spire, tarp was installed above the vaults, gargoyles were wrapped, and the flying buttresses were reinforced. December 2020, workers removing more than 300 tons of burned scaffolding that surrounded the spire. All the burned timbers were removed.

In September 2021, the government agency overseeing the reconstruction of Notre-Dame announced that the temporary structures built to secure the cathedral’s iconic towers, vaults, and walls were complete. Now the cathedral is finally stable enough for reconstruction efforts to begin in earnest. According to the Associated Press, work to restore the organ and other parts of the cathedral are expected to begin in the winter.

Construction Resumes In 2020
On June 8, 2020 construction resumed on Notre-Dame Cathedral after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is focused on continuing to remove the burned scaffolding that had surrounded the spire. In 2019, the spire was undergoing restoration and was destroyed during the fire on April 15. This cleanup effort should last until September but is subject to change as it is a delicate process to remove 30,000 tubes weighing 300 tons.

Key Reconstruction Projects Completed In 2021
Two projects are now complete that are key to the next phase of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s reconstruction. On November 24, all of the burned scaffolding surrounding Notre-Dame de Paris was removed. Now work can begin on the interior of the cathedral without the risk of the damaged scaffolding collapsing into the cathedral. Next, scaffolding will be built inside the cathedral to protect the vaults and provide support so they can undergo reconstruction. The scaffolding will help buttress the weight carried by the vaults, so construction can continue without risking the integrity of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s structure.

In early December, the Grand Organ was dismantled and removed, a project completed one month ahead of schedule. The Grand Organ’s pipes will now be taken for repair and extensive cleaning to remove lead dust that settled in the aftermath of the fire. The restoration work, organ reassembly and tuning are projected to finish by April 2024. At the beginning of November, Michel Picaud, President of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris went inside Notre-Dame Cathedral to take a look at the work that was underway.

Reconstruction Progress in 2022
After the completion of the Safety Phase in 2021, 2022 marks an important step forward as we rebuild and restore Notre-Dame Cathedral. Preliminary operations are already underway, like the major campaign to clean the interior of the cathedral. Over the next few months, the Établissement Public, the public agency in charge of managing the restoration, will issue calls for tender to source companies with expertise in the restoration of historical monuments to participate in the restoration. Outside of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s walls, the restoration of the Grand Organ and the cathedral’s works of art continues.