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France 24
France 24

Five years after fire, Paris’s Notre-Dame on track for December reopening

This image taken on April 11, 2024 shows the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris undergoing restoration. © Mathilde Bellenger, AFP

Exactly five years after being ravaged by fire, the first stage of restoration work on the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris has been completed and the cathedral is due to open December 8, said the chairman of the public body overseeing its reconstruction.

The fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which used to welcome 12 million visitors a year, shocked the world on April 15, 2019.

Around 250 companies and hundreds of artisans, architects and other professionals have been working on the extraordinary project to restore the cathedral, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a masterpiece of Gothic art.

The first stage of the restoration, which French President Emmanuel Macron had said would be completed in "five years", involved clearing away tonnes of rubble and securing and cleaning up the building, which was completed in the summer of 2021 at a cost of €150 million.

Restoration work was interrupted for several weeks due to the Covid-19 crisis, but it resumed in 2021 on the cathedral site and in a number of art workshops, where expert carpenters, glassmakers and stonemasons worked.

Philippe Jost, chairman of the public body overseeing the cathedral's reconstruction, said one of the greatest technical feats was the identical reconstruction of the nave and choir frames, completed in March, using more than a thousand 200-year-old trees selected from French forests.

Ongoing work is on track to meet the December deadline for reopening, said Jost.

The landmark structure already had a key moment in February when scaffolding came off around its spire, which authorities say will be fully visible by the time the Paris Olympics kick off in July.

The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity.

More natural light

In December, the cathedral regained its great cross, and got a new golden rooster to replace one that had been destroyed in the fire.

Authorities have still not determined the cause of the fire, although they believe it was started accidentally.

A fund-raising drive launched within hours of the fire has attracted donations of €846 million ($903 million).

The cathedral's organ, undamaged by the fire but covered in lead dust, has been fully cleaned, although it will take six months of harmonisation before its 8,000 pipes recover their full sound potential.

Natural light inside the cathedral is at its brightest in living memory after the cleanup, Jost said.

France has just called for bids for the creation of modern stained glass for Notre-Dame, with deliveries expected in 2026.

Read moreNotre-Dame carpenter Valentin Pontarollo on his joy at completion of cathedral's roof

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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