Notre Dame Site: Between Shadow and Light

July 09, 2021

On June 24, Agence France-Presse covered the extraction of the first monumental oak trunks to be used to restore the spire of Notre-Dame: the first four trunks were transported from the national forest of Bercé (Sarthe) to at a sawmill in Craon (Mayenne).

“We're lucky to be working with these exceptional specimens,” declared Mickaël Durand, manager of the sawmill of Craon, on this occasion, who added: “We're working with 15 tons and you can't make any mistakes... They're maybe 300 years.”

As a reminder, a thousand oak trees were donated, mostly from five regions (Burgundy, Centre Val de Loire, Grand Est, Pays de la Loire, Normandy) in order to ensure the reconstruction of the frame. Half of them come from public forests and half from nearly 150 private forests.

All of these thousand oaks will be transported to sawmills in the coming weeks to be sawn and cut up during the summer. They will then need to dry for 12 to 18 months, to reach a moisture content of less than 30% and be made available to carpenters.

At the start of 2023, they will be transported to the carpenters' workshops, who will follow Viollet-Le-Duc's plans for an identical reconstruction ... At least, if the schedule is respected.

Because, on June 23, another story came out of the mouth of General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who occupies the post of president of the Public Establishment for the Conservation and Restoration of Notre-Dame. He addressed the parliamentary information mission created to monitor the site's dossier.

For the retired senior officer, the conditions for carrying out the restoration of the emblematic building of the Parisian capital will not be met to ensure a reopening to worship and visitors in 2024, as Emmanuel Macron promised.

First of all, there is the “undersized” public establishment workforce, which is not sufficient to oversee the project, enforce competition, lead the meetings of experts, establish a work schedule with the three project management architects: “we are really at the limit of our working capacity.… I feel real fatigue,” warns Jean-Louis Georgelin.

But that's not all, because the safety protocol dealing with lead, imposed by the Labor Code, constitutes another obstacle to the progress of reconstruction work: compliance with safety rules represents, according to the President of the Establishment, “25% of the time spent by the journeymen on the site. That’s 25% of the cost!,” But, “the cathedral is no longer emitting lead,” according to him.

Difficulties all the more incomprehensible in terms of finance, the weather is good: the amount of the subscriptions currently stands at 833 million euros, which “allows consideration of the future with confidence,” specifies the General Georgelin.

And the man chosen by Emmanuel Macron to carry out the reconstruction of Notre Dame made reference to the Italians, who kept their commitment to rebuild the Genoa bridge in two years.