AN INTERNATIONAL architecture competition is to be launched to redesign the roof of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, which was destroyed in a fire on Monday of last week.
The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, pledged that the cathedral would be rebuilt within five years, to be complete when Paris hosts the Olympics in 2024.
The fire at Notre-Dame caused the spire and much of the roof to collapse, but the structure was saved (News, 18 April). It is expected that it will be closed to the public for five to six years.
The French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, said on Wednesday of last week that the competition would be for “a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time”.
Tarpaulins were erected over the cathedral this week to protect the shell of the cathedral from rain.
The architect in charge of the restoration project, Philippe Villeneuve, told the French broadcaster BFMTV, on Tuesday, that erecting the cover was “the highest priority”.
He said: “The beams are in place; the tarpaulins have arrived; the climbers and the scaffolders, who will put it up, are ready.”
Investigators believe that the fire was started by an electrical short circuit, although inquiries are ongoing. The prosecutor’s office said that “all leads must be explored”.
The Rector-Archpriest of the cathedral, Mgr Patrick Chauvet, said that he hoped to establish a temporary structure in front of Notre-Dame for worship. He said: “The Rector has no cathedral for the moment . . . but I’m going to try to invent something.”
More than €1 billion has been pledged towards the restoration effort so far. Protesters in France have criticised the donations, as the country remains divided over President Macron’s record on inequality.
Benjamin Cauchy, one of the leaders of the gilets jaunes, said on Twitter that it was “good the oligarchy is giving. But exemplary tax behaviour would be better. Good conscience doesn’t cover up for poverty and austerity”.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris last weekend, and a further mass demonstration is expected on 1 May.
One piece of good news that emerged after the fire was that the 180,000 bees who lived in hives on a roof above the sacristy survived unscathed. The hives’ beekeeper, Nicolas Géant, told CNN that it was a “miracle”. “I was incredibly sad about Notre-Dame, because it’s such a beautiful building, and, as a Catholic, it means a lot to me,” he said. “But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that’s just wonderful.”
Writing in The Sunday Times, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, drew parallels between the crucifixion and the blaze at Notre-Dame.
He wrote: “This is the story of that cross in Notre-Dame Cathedral. A symbol of failure that dares to keep standing there amid the ruins and destruction of the glories that made people feel secure. The smoke rises, but the cross stands naked, unadorned, brutal.
“I wonder if the response even of secularists to the fire in Paris says something about our deep cultural yearning for a reality that has somehow got lost in a world dominated and facilitated by icons that are merely utilitarian.”
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