Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral will reopen in December 2024
PARIS (AP) — The reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is moving fast enough to allow it to reopen to visitors and worshipers in late 2024, less than six years after a fire destroyed the roof, French officials said Monday.
The iconic spire of the cathedral, which collapsed in the firewill gradually reappear over the monument this year as a powerful signal of its resurgence, said the army general in charge of the colossal project, General Jean-Louis Georgelin.
“The return of the spire to the sky of Paris, I believe, will symbolize that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame,” he told the Associated Press.
The reconstruction itself began last year, after more than two years of work to make the monument stable and safe enough for craftsmen to rebuild it.
The authorities have chosen to rebuild the 12th-century monument, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, in the state it used to be. That includes recreating the 93-metre-tall (315 ft) spire added in the 19th century by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
Meanwhile, an exhibit called “Notre-Dame de Paris: At the Heart of the Construction Site” will open to visitors on Tuesday in an underground facility in front of the cathedral. It is accessible free of charge and highlights the ongoing activities on the site and the expertise and skills of the employees. It also contains some remains of the fire and works of art from the cathedral.
General Georgelin said the cathedral will reopen in December 2024, in line with the goal set by President Emmanuel Macron just after the fire – but it will be too late for the Paris Olympics scheduled for the summer next year.
“My job is to be ready to open this cathedral in 2024. And we will do it,” said General Georgelin. “We fight for that every day and we are on the right track.”
This “means that the capital’s archbishop will again be able to celebrate the Catholic liturgy in his cathedral” and that the monument will also be “open for tourists to visit,” he said.
Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak told AP that this does not mean that all renovations will be finished by then. “In 2025, renovations will still take place,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, the new exhibit near the cathedral will allow visitors, including those coming to the Olympics, to “live the experience of visiting Notre-Dame in a whole new way,” she said. In addition to the free visit, paying visitors can dive into the history of the cathedral with a virtual reality show. “That will also benefit tourism in Paris,” she added.
About 1,000 people work every day in the capital and across the country to rebuild Notre Dame, General Georgelin said.
“The biggest challenge is to meet exactly the schedule we have made every day,” he stressed. “We have many different works to realize: the framework, the painting, the stones, the vault, the organ, the stained glass and so on.”
Philippe Jost, general manager of the government agency supervising the reconstruction, noted that the result “will be faithful to the original architecture”, both because “we adhere to the lost forms of the cathedral” and because “we also adhere to the materials and construction methods” from the Middle Ages.
“We don’t make concrete vaults that look like stone, we make stone vaults that we rebuild as they were built in the Middle Ages,” Jost said, adding that the roof frame will also be made of oak as it was initially.
AP journalist Alexandre Turnbull contributed to the story.