Over these three years, renovation efforts have continued. Expert craftsmen have come together to make the great cathedral whole again. More than one billion dollars has been raised to fund their work.
It seems like five years is a long time to restore the cathedral. But not so long when you consider that it took almost 200 years to build it in the first place. One of the first Gothic cathedrals ever built, it lies on the east side of the Île de la Cité, an island in the River Seine in the heart of Paris.
It was in 1160 that the decision to build Notre Dame was made, shortly after the Paris church became the central church for all kings of Europe. Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed it crucial that a newer, grander cathedral be built, and the old church on the same location was demolished.
Three years later construction on Notre Dame began and even Pope Alexander III attended the ceremony where they laid the first cornerstone.
A deadline of 2024 has been set to reopen Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral to worshippers and visitors.
FRANCE 24’s Revisited show is following the progress of this ambitious project and brings you a fresh update, three years after the devastating fire that badly damaged the world-famous cathedral. Those who are involved in the restoration work find themselves in a race against time.
New timbers for Notre-Dame’s spire and roof
In the spring of 2021, 1,000 oak trees were selected and harvested. These trees will become the cathedral’s new spire and transept roof. From September 2021 to January 2022, 45 sawmills across France processed the trees into timbers. Little by little, each oak is stripped of its bark and cut into 36 cm sections for planking.
Eight oak trees of exceptional size – 20 meters tall – will be transformed into timbers for the spire. The sawn wood is currently in storage centers where they are being dried and sorted. In mid-2022, the timbers will be transported to carpenters’ workshops to be assembled on a trial basis before final assembly on site next year, in 2023.
Did you know? Viollet-le-Duc’s original spire was constructed in the interior of the cathedral and then hoisted by a crane into its place on the roof in the 1860s.
As a building that has been around for almost 1000 years, Notre Dame has experienced quite a lot of damage and vandalism.
- In the 1500’s, when the Huguenots – a reformist offshoot of the church – gained influence, they destroyed many of the windows of the cathedral that they deemed idolatrous.
- In the 1600’s a modernization movement also forced major alterations.
- During the 1700’s many of the cathedrals treasures were destroyed during the French Revolution.
Excavations over the years have discovered that the area surrounding and beneath the cathedral also holds a great deal of history, with hidden rooms and cellars, furnaces, and other secrets.
By the middle of the 19th century the cathedral was in very poor condition and in danger of collapse However, Victor Hugo’s book ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ renewed interest in the cathedral and saved it from being torn down – in fact, it inspired the campaign to raise money to restore the cathedral in 1845. The 20th century saw various attempts to restore and maintain the cathedral. Most recently, a program started in 1991 to clean and revitalize the cathedral was completed in 2005.