The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says the Paris landmark is still so fragile that there’s a “50% chance” that much of the structure may not survive. That’s because scaffolding installed before this year’s fire is threatening the vaults of the Gothic monument.
Monsignor Patrick Chauvet described his “heartache” at not being able to celebrate Christmas services inside Notre Dame this year. It was the first time the church went silent on Christmas since the French Revolution!
“Today it is not out of danger,” he says. “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile.”
The 12th-century cathedral was under renovation at the time of the accidental April fire, which destroyed its roof and collapsed its spire.
One of the toughest parts of the cleanup effort is cutting down the 50,000 metal tubes of old scaffolding that crisscrossed the back of the edifice.
“We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral,” Monsignor Chauvet says. “Once the scaffolding is removed, we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”
He estimates it will take another three years after that to make the building safe enough for people to re-enter it, but that the full restoration will take longer.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants Notre Dame rebuilt by 2024, when Paris hosts the Olympics. But experts have questioned whether that time frame is realistic.
Engineer Jean-Luc Bodam speaks for many Parisians when he says, “We are French; we are going to try to rebuild Notre Dame as it was before, because it is a symbol.”
Notre Dame does indeed have a history as both a place of worship and a symbol of French culture. Which do you think was more important to the original builders? Which do you think is more important to people today? Can both be good reasons for saving Notre Dame?