Two and a half years after a fire that ravaged the century-old cathedral of Notre-Dame in the heart of Paris, the building is secure enough to begin the reconstruction process, which should be completed in 2024, according to French authorities. .
Stabilizing the 850-year-old cathedral was a daunting task, as the French authorities had to dismantle scaffolding and clean up the debris that lay on the ground, among other tasks, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, a former chief of staff of the army which President Emmanuel Macron placed in charge of the restoration, indicated on Saturday.
“We officially say that the cathedral is now saved, that it is solid on its pillars, that its walls are solid,” said General Georgelin, who heads the government task force for the restoration of Notre-Dame, told the French channel BFM-TV.
The task force, called Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, or Reconstruire Notre-Dame, said in a declaration on Facebook on Saturday that the cathedral was set to reopen in 2024, respecting Mr Macron’s ambitious five-year deadline to open the Gothic monument in the same year that Paris was due to host the Summer Olympics.
Reconstruction work is expected to begin in the coming months, the statement said.
The Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, an association helping to restore the cathedral, is donation search restore dozens of gargoyles, statues and paintings in the cathedral.
The world watched the events of April 15, 2019, as if it were a slow-motion horror film, as flames consumed the cathedral attic before tearing apart the roof and the iconic spire, which s ‘is collapsed in the vaults below. The cathedral, an irreplaceable symbol of French heritage, came dangerously close to collapse, according to a New York Times investigation.
Donations for the restoration have poured in from all over the world, including some of France’s wealthiest families. In the days following the fire, individuals, businesses and institutions had given or pledged 845 million euros, or around 950 million dollars, to rebuild the damaged cathedral, a jewel of Gothic architecture.
The restoration sparked a wave of arguments over the cathedral’s new design. Last year, Mr Macron abandoned his unpopular idea of building a modern spire atop the cathedral.
Investigators have yet to say what caused the fire, but they have focused on two theories: a short circuit near the spire, and the negligence of workers performing renovations, a theory fueled by the discovery of cigarette butts on the scaffolding.
Notre Dame security planners have been criticized for misjudging how quickly a flame could ignite and spread through the cathedral.
The fallout from the fire was not limited to the cathedral itself. Another Times investigation found that the smoke billowing from the cathedral carried its own hidden danger: huge amounts of lead scattered throughout the streets and parks of Paris, according to government reports.
The cathedral, where 13 million visitors flock each year, is still closed to the public.