Notre-Dame Cathedral reopening date announced as reconstruction of its famous spire ends in eastern France

VAL DE BRIEY, France (OSV News) — Four years after a devastating fire, the date for the reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has been set for December 8, 2024, at 11:15 a.m., according to Philippe Villeneuve, the architect leading the reconstruction.

Villeneuve made the announcement on March 16 during a trip to Val de Briey in eastern France, a small farming town near the Luxembourg border. This is where the base of the famous Notre-Dame spire was assembled before its installation on the four pillars at the crossroads of the cathedral’s transept, nearly 30 meters high. The spire was destroyed when a fire tore through the cathedral on April 15, 2019.

Jean-Louis Georgelin, the five-star general appointed by French President Emmanuel Macron to oversee operations at what French media have dubbed “the construction site of the century”, made the announcement with Villeneuve.

The construction site of the spire of the Notre-Dame du Val de Briey cathedral in eastern France. (Photo OSV News/David Bordes, Public establishment Rebatir Notre Dame de Paris)

“Let’s say 11:30 a.m. We may be a little late,” the general joked to reporters.

Even if the famous medieval cathedral in Paris will not reopen in time for the Paris Olympics scheduled for July 26 to August 26. December 11, 2024, the date of reopening is important for Catholics, because December 8 marks the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, one of the greatest feasts of Mary, to which the King of France Louis XIII dedicated himself. , his dynasty and his kingdom in 1638.

In what Louis XIII called his vow, he had proclaimed: “We declare that in taking the most holy and most glorious Virgin as special protector of our Kingdom, we particularly consecrate our person, our state, our crown and our subjects to her. ”

Around this time the king said he wanted a new altar for the cathedral – one with a depiction of the Pieta – Mary holding her son after he was taken down from the cross. The sculpture, created by brothers Nicolas and Guillaume Coustou, was commissioned by King Louis XIII’s son, Louis XIV, and it emerged completely intact from the 2019 fire. collapsed at his feet.

The fire, which broke out in the afternoon, quickly spread to the roof of the cathedral. The original 13th century oak beams have burned down. As firefighters protected the stained glass windows and famous twin towers from the blaze, crowds gathered in shock around the cathedral and watched as the spire collapsed. Groups of worshipers were praying in the streets of Paris for their beloved cathedral to be saved.

Many treasures have indeed been saved from inside Notre-Dame, including the crown of thorns which would have been worn by Jesus during his passion. The crown is temporarily on display at the Louvre Museum.

Also present at the press conference were two dozen black-clad carpenters, each with their tools dangling from a wide leather belt, who have the responsibility of rebuilding Notre Dame’s roof and spire.

These men and women are considered the best in their trade – called “compagnons du duty” in France. They began their apprenticeship at 15 with a three-year Tour de France – and not by bike. According to craft traditions, these chosen carpenters travel the country, going from town to town to learn the skills of different master craftsmen.

Notre-Dame Cathedral reopening date announced as reconstruction of its famous spire ends in eastern France
Scaffolding surrounds Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on July 28, 2022. The cathedral, which was severely damaged by fire on April 15, 2019, will reopen to the public and worship on December 8, 2024. (OSV News photo/Geoffroy Van Der Hassel, swimming pool via Reuters)

Qualified journeymen learn not just a trade but an ethic. Their motto is: “Neither selfish nor submissive, but be of service”.

“It’s the chance of a lifetime,” Paul Poulet, a 27-year-old carpenter specializing in the restoration of historic monuments, told reporters on March 16. Poulet works for Cruard Charpente, one of the four family craft businesses selected. for the task.

Alongside three other small companies established in different regions of France — Le Bras Frères, Asselin and MdB Métiers du bois — Cruard Charpente has chosen to set up its Notre Dame workshop in the verdant Val de Briey valley.

The first assembly of the boom “stool” — the base — is a critical step. This will allow workers to check if the 110 different pieces of oak used to make the base fit together perfectly. Otherwise, they will recut a new piece of one of the 1,000 oaks chosen last year from the ancient royal forests of France for the reconstruction of the 860-year-old cathedral.

The scale of the Val de Briey carpenters’ workshop is unprecedented. The spire base itself is 49 feet long, 43 feet wide and 20 feet high – and it is just one of five pieces making up the entire spire, which is tall and will reach, when completed, 315 feet in the sky of Paris.

At the beginning of April, Poulet will travel with his fellow carpenters to the French capital to begin raising the spire above the vaults of the cathedral. He hopes for good weather and as little wind as possible.

“At this height things can get tricky, and the higher we go the more complicated it will be,” he said.

However, we already know that it will not be a carpenter who will put the finishing touches to the spire on the day of completion. It will be Villeneuve, the chief architect.

When the spire crashed just before 8 p.m. on April 15, 2019, the copper rooster perched on its end was feared lost. However, at dawn on April 16, Villeneuve found the beaten rooster lying in the gutter of rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame, a street just off the cathedral square. The relics of the patroness of Paris, Sainte Geneviève, were found intact inside.

“Philippe Villeneuve will be the man who will put the copper rooster in its place”, confirms Georgelin.

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