Notre-Dame Gets New Spire and Golden Rooster

The return of these two distinctive features marks a poignant milestone in the cathedral’s reconstruction

Crane lifts golden rooster
A crane lifts the new golden rooster to the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral's spire on December 16, 2023. Thomas Samson / AFP via Getty Images

On Saturday morning, a crane carefully placed a new golden rooster atop the spire of Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral.

While the rooster has long been a national emblem of France and a symbol of Christianity, this particular bird, which sports flame-like wings, is also meant to resemble a phoenix, signifying endurance in the wake of the devastating 2019 fire.

“Since [the fire], we have worked on this rooster, [the] successor, which sees the flame carried to the top of the cathedral as it was before, more than 96 meters from the ground,” said chief architect Philippe Villeneuve, who designed the new weathervane, per Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press. “It is a fire of resurrection.”

Before the rooster left the ground, it was blessed by the Paris Archbishop Laurent Ulrich during a ceremony that took place behind the cathedral. The original rooster, which sustained damage but survived the fire, will eventually go on view in a museum, reports Reuters’ Lucien Libert.

The reconstructed spire, surrounded by scaffolding, emerged just a few weeks ago. On December 8, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the iconic landmark, which is scheduled to reopen by the same date in 2024.

“Deadlines will be met. It is a formidable image of hope and of a France that has rebuilt itself,” Macron said while speaking with workers, report Reuters’ Elizabeth Pineau and Geert De Clercq. “This is an important and emotional moment,” he added.

Over four years have passed since April 15, 2019, when a catastrophic fire tore through the 850-year-old cathedral, collapsing its historic spire and roof. The flames raged for hours, and firefighters finally quelled them only 15 to 30 minutes before the cathedral’s complete destruction. Onlookers worldwide followed the tragic event with dismay.

The first time Maxime L’Héritier, a historian at Paris 8 University, saw the destruction up close, he felt “helpless.”

“The atmosphere was oppressive,” wrote L’Héritier in a 2021 essay for the anthropology magazine Sapiens. “Although I had watched the fire many times on television, only at that moment did I truly realize how devastating the blaze was and how demanding the task was before us.”

Macron initially pledged to rebuild the cathedral within five years, in time for the Olympic Games that will take place in Paris this summer—a timeline many considered unrealistic. While this deadline has been pushed back, Macron says workers are on track for the December reopening.

Still, the task hasn’t been easy. With around 500 people—architects, carpenters, engineers, metal workers and more—working on the site daily, the reconstruction has cost about €700 million (roughly $755 million) so far, reports the New York Times’ Aurelien Breeden. Most of the restoration funding came from donations collected during the fire’s aftermath, amounting to nearly €850 million euros (about $950 million).

The 96-meter (315-foot) spire is one of the cathedral’s most recognizable features, but it wasn’t included in the original design—it was added in a 19th-century restoration by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. While some argued that the new spire should be modernized, it has been rebuilt identically to Viollet-le-Duc’s version, per Reuters.

The destruction comes with a minor silver lining: The restoration process has allowed researchers to closely examine Notre-Dame’s structural details, and they’ve made several new discoveries. Earlier this year, for example, a new paper revealed the presence of large iron staples that supported the cathedral’s stone blocks.

Macron also announced a new Notre-Dame museum, which will teach tourists about the cathedral’s history and the restoration process, and an upcoming contest for artists to design six new stained-glass windows for the cathedral’s south side.

In the meantime, Villeneuve tells the Times that the top of the new spire will be complete by the time visitors arrive for the Olympics. “The schedule is tight,” he says. “But we’re on track.”


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