Notre-Dame de Paris: a cathedral “conforming” to the original, Macron slice

(PARIS) There, it's decided. After months of controversy and heated discussions, Emmanuel Macron has decided: Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral will be rebuilt identically.

Jean-ChristopheLaurence Jean-Christophe Laurence

La Presse

The news made the headlines in French newspapers on Friday. And for good reason. It's been more than a year that we wonder how will be restored the emblematic Parisian monument, ravaged by a fire on 15 April 2019.

Redo as is? Modernize? Go off the beaten track ?

M. Macron had first opened the door to a strong “contemporary gesture”, which had provoked an avalanche of sometimes visionary, sometimes eccentric architectural proposals, with the aim of propelling Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral towards the future.

But wisdom and common sense clearly prevailed.

Thursday evening, the Élysée Palace announced that the President of the Republic had “acquired the conviction that [était] it is necessary to restore Notre-Dame in a manner most consistent with its last state complete, consistent and known. While betting on the choice of sustainable materials. ”

This press release was preceded by warning signs.

Earlier today, the new Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, had declared on the radio that a “broad consensus” was emerging for an “identical” reconstruction.


Smoke rises from the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, engulfed in flames, the 15 April 2019.

A little later, the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture in turn spoke in favor of a reconstruction of the frame, the roof and the spire which would fully respect the plans left by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the XIX e century.

Not a surprise

In a sense, this decision is not surprising. A “modern” restoration would have gone against major conventions on the conservation and restoration of heritage, such as the charters of Athens, Venice or Krakow.

“These charters do not have the value of law, but have referential value”, argues Mathieu Lours, specialist in the history of architecture.

If France [s’] discards [de ces chartes], it still gives the sign that it is getting away from the major international standards, which have been drawn since the middle of the XX e century. It would have been an act fraught with consequences.

Mathieu Lours, specialist in the history of architecture

In the eyes of the historian, this decision is also political. By leaning towards the wisest, not to say conservative, choice, Macron responds to the opinion and expectations of the center-right electorate, currently its main supporter.

“This is where he takes the least risk. And it is also a choice that corresponds to his political turn. Macron was a president of modernity who settled more and more in the tradition of V e Republic. It is aligned with a presidential image that defends what has been achieved rather than a projection into the future, “observes Mathieu Lours.


Debris in front of the choir of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, the 16 April 2019, the day after the fire

In any case, that closes the debate between Ancients and Moderns. The choice will also reassure tourist shops, who will not have to renew their postcard merchandise representing this jewel of Gothic architecture.

Reconstruction will begin next year, once the monument has been secured. The dismantling of the scald that surrounds Notre-Dame, deformed and welded by the flames, has been repeatedly delayed due to bad weather, lead pollution and the health crisis. But it should be finished “by the end of September at the latest,” according to the work supervisors.

Nothing excludes, finally, that concessions to modernity are made for the interior, whether stained glass, altar or light fixture – provided that the work is completed in 2024 for the Paris Olympics.

As promised by Emmanuel Macron the day after the fire, Notre-Dame would have been rebuilt in five years …