Still Filled With Debris, Notre Dame Awaits Start of Restoration Work

Tags: Currents Faith, Inspiration, World News

Currents News Staff

Three months after the disastrous fire which devastated one of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, CNN had the rare opportunity to tour the work site for a look at what progress has been made in cleaning up the debris and down laying the groundwork for the reconstruction, which French President Macron says he wants completed in just five years.

While tourists still make their way to Notre Dame in Paris, these days their holiday snapshots might look like they visited a construction site.

Whether from an overabundance of caution, or because those overseeing Notre Dame’s rise from the ashes have never dealt with anything quite like this before, the work site is a high security zone where few are let in. 

And given the high concentration of lead from the melted roof, those who are also required to wear special protective jumpsuits.

On the roof, a gaping hole now stands where the fire burned most fiercely three months ago. 

Lead and other debris still litters the parts of the vaulted ceiling, which did not give way during the blaze, leading to worry that the extra weight could still bring down parts of the building. 

For the moment, the chief architect is concerned about shoring up the flying buttresses which support the walls and vaulted ceiling. huge, precisely engineered wooden braces have been put in place beneath the ancient stonework to prevent it from shifting. 

But no one is talking about rebuilding just yet. It could be another nine months or more before that gets underway. The chief architect says the building is in such fragile condition, it could still possibly collapse.

Work has been proceeding very slowly, as debris still remain in the central nave area of the cathedral.

the engineer on site, Jean Michel Guilment, said studies need to be made when the walls of Notre Dame are thoroughly dried out to determine how much weight they can bear. 

Still, he believes President Macron’s 2024 deadline for rebuilding Notre Dame is possible.

“I think by mobilizing everyone and by really committing large teams and major companies it’s doable. It’s absolutely doable but we mustn’t waste time,” he said. 

Meanwhile, treasures of Notre Dame like the religious relics which were rescued during and after the fire are safely stored away, many at the Louvre museum.

The stained glass windows are gone, taken away for cleaning and protection.

Marie-Helene Didier, the cultural ministry’s conservator on the project said the cathedral’s paintings survived surprisingly well. 

“What reassured us when we made a thorough inspection: we saw that the masterpieces were all intact. there we were delighted, especially compared with the state of the building,” she explained.

So, given the state of the building, Notre Dame’s rescue is cautious and slow. 

Didier described it like working on an archeological dig, with everything burnt timber or scorched stone.

Everything brought out of the cathedral has been marked with a grid number to indicate where it was found, but even the conservators aren’t sure where it all will end up.

They and everyone else working to save Notre Dame know that from a religious, cultural and historical point of view, they are part of a monumental project unlike any before.