France | With medieval techniques, Notre Dame is reborn and preparing to dazzle | the world

France |  With medieval techniques, Notre Dame is reborn and preparing to dazzle |  the world

Since April 15, 2019, Paris has not been the same. One of its most beloved symbols is the cathedral Our lady, surrounded by scaffolding, waiting for the moment it will be shown back to the world. On that fateful day, a jewel of Gothic architecture built between the 12th and 13th centuries, in the middle of the Middle Ages, was consumed by flames, centuries of history evaporated, and in real time, its impressive wooden roof collapsed in front of everyone. Eyes.

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France’s heart was wounded. For this reason, President Emmanuel Macron did not hesitate to set a deadline: Notre Dame must be restored in five years. A monumental task, not only because of the extensive damage to the church, but because it is a historic cathedral, reconstruction cannot be done easily.

For this reason, the details are observed for four years to the maximum. Even medieval techniques are used to recreate what the cathedral looked like at the time of its conception, such as manually carving and chiseling the oak beams or cleaning its exquisite stained glass windows.

On April 15, 2019, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames. (Photo: Fabien Barrau / AFP)

In fact, every item used has a team of experts preparing for the grand re-opening on December 8, 2024. About a thousand people are working on the project, not only at Notre Dame but across the country: woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, stone masons, architects, engineers, historians, restorers, painters, plastic artists, potters, glassmakers, as well as anthropologists and archaeologists. As a detail, the ruins are not discarded, but carefully studied to explore the history behind each particle of the cathedral.

In statistics

900 million dollars

The French government has collected donors from around the world for the restoration of Notre Dame.

14 million

People are expected to visit once the cathedral reopens to the public each year. Before the fire, it received 12 million tourists.

40 mil

The scaffolding sweets were burned and melted after the fire and removed to prevent the structure from collapsing.

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“We tried to remake things in the same way. But we also try to understand the intent of the original sculptors, so we look at the traces that their tools left behind,” sculptor Danae LeBland, 23, who works on carving many of the pieces, including symbols, tells CBS. Gargoyles.

Despite proposals to “modernize” the church, such as making it an eco-efficient building or adding a swimming pool on the roof or a light beam shining skyward, the French government persisted with the idea of ​​Notre Dame. Same as before. It will flash again and again, but will not regenerate. For this reason, the same elements used for its construction are used: stone, wood and iron.

And reconstruction?

  • Four years later, the cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained. Experts point to two hypotheses: a power failure or a poorly extinguished cigarette.
  • The French government has owned Notre Dame since 1905, after the passage of the law separating church and state. Therefore, while the Catholic Church oversees the interior, it is responsible for the reconstruction of the structure.

A magnificent wooden structure of trees known as the Notre Dame Forest dates back to the 12th century and covers the roof, which will be replaced by another structure, for which there are about 2,000 oak trees from 200 years ago. was cut. , which caused controversy in the country.

The wood is being used to rebuild the 60-metre tower that collapsed during the fire, and it will be crowned again on the roof of the church before the start of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris next July.

A historical challenge

The 2019 fire not only burned the wooden roof and tower, but when it collapsed it hit the altar and a large part of the central nave.

But the destruction didn’t stop there, because while trying to put out the fire, the firefighters had to spray large amounts of water on the limestone structure, causing it to completely collapse, which ultimately didn’t happen. Likewise, the ejected ash created soot that damaged paintings, sculptures and stained glass windows and massive metal structures.

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Firefighters tackle flames from the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris after a major fire ripped through the historic cathedral in central Paris. (Photo: AFP)

Therefore, the challenge is huge for the entire team working on the restoration. “This is a big challenge, because two objectives that usually conflict with each other must be met: first, to provide protection to the people who occupy a historic building against earthquakes and other extreme events, and second, to respect the values. They define the historic character of the building, including its reliability and the principle of minimal intervention. ” says engineer Daniel Torrealva, head of the PUCP Structures Laboratory, to this newspaper.

A new obstacle: the death of the project manager

His presence is common at every press conference or report showing the cathedral’s renovation progress. Retired General Jean-Louis Georglin, a former chief of the general staff, was put in charge of the reconstruction by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2019, a role he held until his death last August.

Georgelin died in a mountain accident in the Pyrenees and received a national tribute led by the president.

“Notre Dame Cathedral is, in a way, the heart of France. All the great events that have happened in France have, in one way or another, happened here,” he told US network CBS a few months ago.

His job now fell to Philip Jost, an engineer who had been Georgelin’s right-hand man and handled the technical side of operations, ensuring the continuation of the extensive restoration process.

“We are determined to continue their efforts. We owe it to many people, but we also owe it to him,” Jost said after his appointment.

An interesting detail is that Notre Dame already underwent a very complex restoration in the 19th century by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who is considered the father of the neo-Gothic style. It was his idea for the half-timbered roof, gargoyles and various bronze sculptures that filled the woods, giving new life to the cathedral, which had been abandoned and looted during the French Revolution.

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At first, restorers debated whether to restore the cathedral replaced by Viollet-le-Duc or the original cathedral from the 12th century, but the decision ended up being what we know: Notre Dame should return as is. Reborn from his ashes.

point of view

“Notre Dame has more to say”

The architect was Carlos Torres Flores

University Professor and Director of the Counseling Program Heritage

One of the most important challenges at Notre Dame is the technical aspect, as the techniques developed for this process are sophisticated in terms of documentation, research and production, but it is restored in a compatible manner. And the traditional way, which is a major challenge in the restoration process.

Notre Dame’s recovery marks a milestone and leaves many lessons to be learned in terms of restoration and preservation.

Every restoration process arises after understanding the value of the building, in this case Notre Dame’s value for its architecture, its aesthetics, its history, what it represents as a symbol and what makes the project so important not only nationally. But all over the world.

This cathedral has withstood wars, conquests, invasions, fires, and yet it has a grand plan. Traditional building should not be seen as a good thing of the past, because it puts it in a glass box and freezes it, but you have to understand what the building means now, in the present. the future. The only way for historic buildings to stand the test of time is not to treat them as museums, but to make them alive, active and usable by people. Notre Dame is a church that has a lot to say about what happened, but also a lot of potential for the future.


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