The Rebuilding of Notre-Dame de Paris

The iconic Notre-Dame de Paris along the Seine always has been a must-see tourist stop in the City of Light. Now, in a macabre twist, it’s become even more so as its smoke-scarred shell draws visitors from around the world to document the damage to the nearly 900-year old centerpiece of Paris.

The shocking images of the April fire that took out most of the roof and the iconic spire have been replaced by sights of construction cranes, scaffolding and barricades—lots and lots of barricades. It is impossible to get close to Notre-Dame today as bike racks and armed guards ring the block around the cathedral, mainly for the safety of anyone walking near the still-unstable structure. So the crowds gather along the Seine and on the bridge east of the church in almost hushed reverence as they survey the surreal scene.

Ironically, when you look at the church from the bell towers, you can’t immediately see the damage behind. The towers stand intact, and the rose window between them is unharmed—in fact, all three of the cathedral’s rose windows survived. It’s when you view the structure from the south side, across the river, that you see how the fire tore through the 800-year-old wood that made up the roof. Officials say the roof, 330 feet long, cannot be rebuilt in its original form.

In a famous pronouncement just after the fire, French President Emmanual Macron declared that the cathedral would be restored in five years, in time for Paris to be the host for the Olympic Games in 2024. More than a thousand architecture experts have signed a petition asking that the timeline be adjusted—a more realistic goal, they say, is about twice that long.

In the meantime, more than a billion euros have been donated toward the rebuilding, and many shops around town have donation boxes by their cash registers for the cause (we saw a number at the airport convenience stores). Donations are being requested for employees as well as for restoration.

While the city and its tourists watch the rebuilding, the Paris seasons will change through spring rains, summer heat and chilly fall and winter winds as crews work on the restoration. Notre-Dame de Paris survived the French Revolution and world wars—now it remains to be seen how the cathedral survives this latest challenge. 

Want to donate to the renovation effort? Here’s the official website from the cathedral with more information on the project:

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