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'A matter of honour' - Restoration of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral will remain on schedule

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'A matter of honour' - Restoration of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral will remain on schedule
This photograph taken on August 19, 2023, shows building work at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

After the sudden death of the project supervisor in a hiking accident at the weekend, the architect responsible for the restoration of Paris' spectacular Notre-Dame cathedral says the work remains on schedule. Here's the latest on when the cathedral will reopen.

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The beautiful Notre-Dame cathedral has been closed since the spring of 2019, when a devastating fire ripped through the Medieval building, toppling famous spire and destroying a large section of the roof.

This weekend the restoration suffered a blow when 74-year-old General Jean-Louis Georgelin died during a hiking trip to the Pyrenees - the former army chief had been chosen by Emmanuel Macron to oversee the restoration of the cathedral.

So what does this mean for Notre-Dame and its restoration?

The General's role

Georgelin, a retired military man whose motto was "move forward without procrastinating" was appointed in 2020 to supervise the renovation project.

He had no particular expertise in architecture or restoration - his role was an organisational one, and he headed up a team of more than 40 people tasked with organising the huge renovation project.

Paying tribute to Georgelin, project architect Philippe Villeneuve said: "When he recognised someone's competence, he trusted them."

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Georgelin lunched every Thursday with Villeneuve and project director Philippe Jost in order to review the latest details of the restoration.

"We'd got used to working together in this way, and we were very fond of each other. We spoke to each other in no uncertain terms. We'd have a few laughs and yell at each other without holding grudges," said Villeneuve, telling French daily Le Parisien that the General always ate any leftover desserts.

The schedule 

When the fire broke out in April 2019 the cathedral's central spire was wrapped in scaffolding because of ongoing works. The blaze tore through the roof, toppling the spire.

The first job for the restoration, after making the site safe, was to unpick the twisted and melted wreckage of the scaffolding from around what remained of the roof - only after that painstaking task was completed in 2021 could the architects make a full assessment of the damage and begin the rebuilding.

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After some discussion, it was decided to rebuild the cathedral exactly as it was, including the spire - which was a much later addition to the Medieval building.

The framework for the new spire is currently being installed - large wooden frames were delivered by boat in July - and it is scheduled to be finished by the end of October.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Speaking in July, Georgelin said: "By the end of the year, we'll see the spire again in the Paris sky".

Work has been completed on the replacement stained glass for the choir.

Towards the end of August and beginning of September, more wooden frames will arrive - this time for the roof of the nave and the choir, which will restore the roof back to its original height.

This part of the cathedral dates from the 13th century and the restoration has used Medieval building techniques to restore it exactly as it was - including felling a total of 2,400 oak trees in order to rebuild the famous 'forest' ceiling.

Once the carpentry is complete the next phase is the lead roofing on the spire, which is set to begin in October 2023.

Some works on the interior of the cathedral, including a new electrical system, have already begun and the diocese is working on new furniture for the interior. 

It was originally hoped that the cathedral would be able to reopen in time for the Olympics in July 2024, but the most recent finish date is December 8th 2024 - the festival of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic calendar. 

It is hoped that the cathedral will be fully open to the public by the end of 2024.

What next

Georgelin will receive the honour of a state memorial service at Les Invalides, attended by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, and it will also be Macron's role to appoint a replacement project leader.

Villeneuve said: "We're on schedule. Georgelin and I were viscerally committed to keeping to the schedule.

"It was a matter of honour for us to keep to it."

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