French Senate says Notre-Dame must be restored exactly how it was

French Senators have stipulated that Notre-Dame cathedral must be restored exactly how it was before the devastating fire that tore through the Paris landmark.

French Senate says Notre-Dame must be restored exactly how it was
The fire damaged Notre-Dame. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP
On Monday evening, the French Senate approved the government's Notre-Dame restoration bill – but added a clause that it must be restored to the state it was before the blaze, striking a blow to the government which had launched an international architecture competition to debate ideas on the restoration.
The subject of the rebuilding of the cathedral – which was left badly damaged after fire tore through the roof and destroyed the spire on April 15 – has become a fraught battleground between traditionalists who want an exact restoration and others who favour a more imaginative take.
Some of the suggestions have included a rooftop garden, an 'endless spire' of light and a swimming pool on top of the building.
The Senate has now approved the restoration bill already passed by the French parliament to allow work on the structure to be completed in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024 – but requires that the restoration be faithful to the “last known visual state” of the cathedral, in an attempt to check the government, which has launched an international architectural competition soliciting designs for renovation.
The question of whether Notre-Dame will be restored identically has become a political battleground. French president Emmanuel Macron has called for “an inventive reconstruction”, while Paris' Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo favors an identical restoration and called herself “conservative” on the subject.
Senators also removed a controversial clause from the law which would give the government the power to override regulations on planning, environmental and heritage protection and public tenders. Many members of the Senate, dominated by the right-wing opposition, have been especially critical of President’s Macron’s promise to finish reconstruction within five years.
The law would enable the government to create an établissement public à caractère administratif (EPA), or public project, to oversee the reconstruction project. This EPA would itself be placed under the authority of the Ministry of Culture, currently directed by Franck Riester.
Another minor modification is the backdating of a proposed tax break for those who have made donations for the cathedral’s reconstruction.
The bill approved by the Assemblée nationale outlines a national subscription project to be put in place in order to manage funds collected, making donations made from April 16th through December 31st eligible for a deduction of 75 percent, up to €1,000. The Senate has pushed the beginning of this period back to April 15th, so that those who made the earliest donations will not be penalised. 
Because of the changes imposed, the bill cannot now pass directly in to law, so the Senate and the Assemblée nationale will now attempt to come to an agreement on a version of the bill that will become law.

Member comments

  1. How does the Roman Catholic Church fit into this restoration struggle? Do they not have any say? It is their church, and it is a very active parish also. Do their needs mean anything? I understand your need for patrimony and preservation. But this is a church, albeit a very famous one.

  2. Notre Dame is a place of Christian worship. It should not be made vulgar by swimming pools and laser lights. There are other places for those. The ancient and beautiful building should be restored as much as possible to the original.

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Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.