Despite persistent delays and debates, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is scheduled to reopen to the public by 2024—five years after a devastating fire ripped through the iconic Paris landmark, collapsing its roof and toppling its iconic spire.
Rima Abdul Malak, the French minister of culture, announced last week that the clean-up phase is over, and workers will be able to start the rebuilding phase at the end of the summer, reports Reuters.
Shortly after the fire, which onlookers around the world followed with dismay, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to see the cathedral rebuilt within five years—in time for the Olympic Games that will be held in Paris in the summer of 2024.
At the time, some experts deemed his ambitions “unrealistic,” and many obstacles have indeed popped up along the path to reconstruction.
Some feared that a 250-ton mass of scaffolding, welded together by the blaze, could not be removed without causing further damage to the cathedral. “Toxic fallout” from lead particles that were released upon the collapse of Notre-Dame’s roof caused delays in the restoration process, and France’s Covid-19 lockdown also put the project on hold.
Also divisive were questions about what the restoration of the 850-year-old building should look like. The French Senate rejected calls to replace the spire with a modern design, ultimately voting to restore it to its “last known visual state.” But France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission did approve proposals to modernize Notre-Dame’s interior with new additions like contemporary artworks—a plan that some critics described as a “woke Disney revamp.”
In spite of these setbacks and controversies, Abdul Malak said that progress was moving ahead according to a timeline established by General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army chief overseeing Notre-Dame’s reconstruction, reports Artnet’s Anna Sansom.
The reconstruction project is expensive, and since the fire donors have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars. To reinstall the spire, wood pieces cut from hundreds of centuries-old oak trees will be assembled in carpenters’ workshops and transported to Notre-Dame in early 2023.
A parallel initiative to invigorate Notre-Dame’s surroundings is also underway. Funded by Paris City Hall, the redesign includes planting more vegetation in the area and installing a cooling system, the New York Times’ Aurelien Breeden reported in June.
Per the Times, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that Notre-Dame “had to be left in its beauty and have everything around it be a showcase for that beauty.”