Work Begins on the Spire of Saint-Denis

Source: FSSPX News

Model of the reconstruction of the spire of the Basilica of Saint-Denis

More than 150 years ago, the spire of the Basilica of Saint-Denis, 90 meters high, disappeared from the Parisian sky after experiencing problems that required its removal, which should only have been temporary. This temporary removal has lasted more than a century and a half: it seems, however, that it must come to an end. But it’s not over yet.

This is not the first time that the reconstruction of the spire of the Basilica of Saint-Denis as it was in 1845 has been announced. Never, however, has the project been so close to success.

An Immersive Building Site

The building site was envisaged in an original way: part of it will be accessible to the general public, who will be able to wander on an immersive path and an augmented reality space. Inspired by the famous Guédelon construction site, a building site village will also be part of this new space.

Thus, craftsmen, stonemasons, blacksmiths, master glassmakers or wood sculptors should present their work to visitors. The tower will thus be restored according to traditional skills, aided by modern technologies to facilitate the work of the craftsmen without distorting the work.

The History of the Removal

In June 1837, the north tower of the Basilica of Saint-Denis was struck by lightning. Architect François Debret decided to dismantle it as a precautionary measure. Put back up between 1842 and 1845, it was again damaged by the Montville tornado, coming from Rouen, during the summer of 1845.

In 1846, the spire was taken down a second time, temporarily. The reconstruction plans were begun by the architect Debret. The following year, it was Viollet-le-Duc who would finish the disassembly: what should have only been temporary became long-lasting, and the wait became never-ending.

Several attempts have been announced since then but remained without success, until the creation of the “Suivez la flèche” [“Follow the spire”] association in 2016, which offers crowdfunding to launch the project, before becoming the contracting authority two years later.

The fire of Notre Dame in 2019 rekindled the attachment of the French to their religious heritage and helped breathe new life into the project. Since then, the Ile-de-France Interdepartmental Solidarity Fund (FS2I) has announced a large participation in this project estimated at more than 37 million euros.

On Monday, April 29, 2024, the “Suivez la flèche” association announced that it had mobilized a large part of the announced budget, thanks to the participation of the Ile-de-France Region, the Greater Paris Metropolitan area, and private investors.

The Heritage Foundation, which supports the project, also announced that it is putting in place a participative fund, resting on the principle of sponsoring the spire’s stones with an investment starting at 15 euros.

A Reconstruction Attacked by Experts

But, as the site Aleteia comments: “If the interest in heritage is demonstrated and commendable, we lament that it is deprived of this extra soul specific to religious edifices. Here, the cathedral seems to only be considered as a heritage object without a great spiritual dimension.”

Finally, we must not forget the protests of experts who, in 2021, strongly denounced the plan of the reconstruction, which would consist of “building a fake on one of the most emblematic French religious monuments, contrary to all the commitments of the Ministry of Culture.”

And which would have other collateral damage. Still according to this group: the site will lead to “the uncovering, through preventive archeological excavations, of a cemetery from the High Middle Ages, including the funerary chamber of Pépin the Short, which will then be destroyed to install the reinforced concrete foundatioon pads,” necessary for the strengthening of the facade.