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Notre Dame Cathedral is undergoing major renovations following a disastrous fire that collapsed the roof and nearly burned the centuries-old church to the ground, but despite the best efforts of architects, the French government, and generous donors, Notre Dame de Paris may not yet be safe from ruin.
France24 was granted a rare look inside the Cathedral and filmed the tour, led by the chief architect of the resurrection project. The view is disheartening, to say the least.
“Once inside Notre-Dame, there is a quiet stillness. The floor of the nave has been cleared except for some piles of gravel. It rains inside the church,” France24 reports. “One has to look up to understand just how much work has to be done. There are gaping holes in the vaults of the ceiling, twisted piles of burned metal and wood, and at the summit, partially burned scaffolding towers overhead, still in danger of collapsing. The 300-ton structure must be reinforced before it can be taken down slowly, piece by piece, a process expected to take until June.”
There are also “tents” in front of the cathedral, covering what precious items have been rescued and now await restoration.
The most pressing problem, though, is the roof, which disintegrated in the April fire — a blaze that started, it seems, after a construction worker dropped a smoldering cigarette onto a piece of ancient woodwork on the cathedral’s roof.
The roof is open now, riddled with holes and not structurally sound but restorers have no choice but to leave what is left of the roof intact lest more of the church collapse. It’s also not clear how strong the steel structure that supports the roof is. It has been heat-tempered and it is now turned and twisted. Experts in charge of the renovation say they do not know whether dismantling more of the roof and its support structure will exacerbate structural weaknesses, France24 reported in October.
“If we remove the burned wood and the pieces of the framing that burned, and the metal elements that accumulated since April 15th, we don’t know what will happen. So today we absolutely cannot say that Notre-Dame has been saved.”
The real work on the cathedral still hasn’t begun, either. According to France24, that may not begin until next year.
“French Culture Minister Franck Riester said that before rebuilding can begin, several more months of conservation work done in parallel with an evaluation of the cathedral’s soundness need to be completed,” the outlet reported.
“For us, the top priority is to do a quality restoration that captures the height of what our history represents for our country, for Paris, for the Catholic religion, for Notre Dame,” the official added, noting that France still hasn’t decided what route it will take when it finally begins reconstruction on the roof — whether it will go back the way it was or change completely to be more “modern” — but French officials, at least, will let the public have a say.
“We are determined to do things in a totally transparent manner,” Riester told officials.