Slowdown in the work to put safety measures in place, the sullenness of the men working on the construction site, uncertainty about the strength of some of the weakened structures, the approach of winter, and the decision to reopen the building to worship: the questions are numerous six months after the fire that ravaged the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.
The construction slow down for the installation of safety measures was at the heart of the concerns of Bishop Benoist de Sinety expressed at the press conference given on October 15, 2019 at the diocesan house. The vicar general and representative of the Archbishop of Paris to the future public institution for the restoration of Notre-Dame had difficulty hiding his impatience: “the accumulated time lost in the current phase of securing the premises has postponed many deadlines,” he said.
The Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, tried to respond to this impatience by announcing the same day that the dismantling of the scaffolding should begin in November and end in March or April 2020, a delay of three months according to work projections.
This new delay is not without cause for concern: until this security phase is completed, the vault is still at risk of collapsing, and the arrival of winter creates the fear that components of the building will break away. On October 14, one of the adjacent streets was temporarily closed due to heavy gusts of wind.
Another consequence is the explosion of costs. Estimated at 30 million euros in April, the projected cost of this first phase is now at 85 million.
Reopening the Building to Worship
The launch of the architectural competition for the spire and the forecourt could also slow down the reconstruction. Nevertheless, the chief architect Philippe Villeneuve thinks highly of the RTL, that the five-year period is tenable, “if we rebuild it the same”—enough to discourage any initiative to sacrifice Viollet-le-Duc’s work, which perfectly integrates with the Gothic building, on the iconoclastic altar of contemporary art.
Regarding the reopening of the building to worship, the vicar general is optimistic, saying, “by 2024, we can very well imagine reopening the doors of the cathedral even if the last stone of the reconstruction has not been laid.”
Philippe Villeneuve is also in favor of this idea. According to him, it is necessary “to reopen the cathedral quickly,” even if there is still work to be done. “Nothing will prevent us from continuing with the work on the frame, the roof, or elsewhere,” said the chief architect.
Gilles Drouin, commissioned by the diocese to rethink the layout of the future renovated cathedral, proceeds more prudently: “for the moment, we do not know the condition of the vault, but it is a fine idea to reopen the first three or four aisles of the main nave to the faithful and tourists once the security phase is over.”
One thing learned from this dossier: the money for financing the project is not lacking. Six months after the fire, 922 million euros in donations and pledges were received to rebuild the cathedral, according to figures from the Ministry of Culture. “It is far too early to say whether the amount of donations will be enough, but the state will assume its responsibilities,” Franck Riester assured.