Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should reopen to visitors at the end of 2024, six years after being ravaged by fire.
In the afternoon of April 15, 2019, fire broke out in the timbers below the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, above the vaulted stone ceiling within. Firefighters had to deal with molten lead falling from the roof, and the spire above the center of the building collapsed into the attics. The woodwork in the north tower was damaged, but fire was controlled before the eight massive bells there could fall. No one was killed and only three emergency responders injured, but the 900-year old church was immensely damaged. Oak beams laid in place in the 13th century were gone, and irreplaceable. Fortunately, iconic pieces like the rose window were minimally damaged.
President Emmanuel Macron set a goal for the Cathedral to be reopened in 2024, and fundraising began immediately. Because it is priceless, Notre Dame, which belongs to the nation of France, was uninsured. Discussion raged over whether or not to restore the original design of Notre Dame Cathedral, whether or not to include the 19th century modifications (like the collapsed spire), or if restorers should add the twenty-first century to the building. Heated debate compared modern, safer materials to traditional construction.
For two years, work focused on simply making the building stable and safe again. In that time, the decision was made to restore the monument to how it looked before the fire, including recreating the wrought-iron 315 foot spire.
“The return of the spire in Paris’ sky will in my opinion be the symbol that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame,” said Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, the French army general in charge of the immense project.
“My job is to be ready to open this cathedral in 2024. And we will do it,” he said. “We are fighting every day for that and we are on a good path.”