Above Notre-Dame, La Flèche, the crossing tower, rises again into the sky over Paris

A gargoyle in the arms of the stone sculptors (Photo: September 2023).

We report further successes the jargon of the craftsmen: “La Forêt” (The Forest) is also up again, and so are the “Grand Ducs” (Owls)

“It is standing again and towering into the sky over Paris,” celebrated the French trade magazine Pierre Actual (April 2024), and we want to join in the cheers. We’re talking about La Flèche (The Arrow), the striking crossing tower in the middle of the roof of Notre-Dame in Paris. We remember: on April 15, 2019, a fire devastated the cathedral and World Cultural Heritage site. The symbolic climax of the catastrophe was the moment when the crossing tower, which was in flames, toppled over, smashed the roof along with the vault beneath it and fell burning into the nave.

Numerous details about this stage of reconstruction can be found on the Rebâtir Notre-Dame website. The organization was set up for reconstruction and coordinated the work. La Flèche stands about 70 m above the ground and is 30 m high.

It rests on the cross vault where the central nave of the church and the two side arms come together to form an architectural cross. More precisely: the tower in the shape of a needle, which is a visual lightweight compared to the massive towers at the main entrance, rests on a pressure ring made of stone elements, which in turn sits on the cross vault.

The true-to-original restoration of this ensemble not only required exceptional work from the stonemasons and carpenters, but also a special organization. Because after the pressure ring was completed, the roof could not be closed immediately. First, the large wooden components for La Flèche had to be brought up and assembled there.

The “owls” at the foot of La Flèche (Photo: February 2024).

In contrast, the many decorative elements on the needle, for example the weathercock at the top or the lead eagles – known in jargon as “owls” further down – were just a delicacy on the sidelines of this great task.

The roof truss (La Forêt) still with the scaffolding for La Flèche (Photo: March 2024).

The roof structure above the church is now completely closed. Because of the amount of wood that was used there, it is nicknamed “La Forêt” (The Forest) by the builders.

Then the roofers come.

Rebâtir Notre-Dame also documented the work on the gargoyles and chimeras on the façade with beautiful photos. We particularly liked a picture where a group of stonemasons hold such a monster in their arms. Depending on the condition of these works of art, they were dismantled and partially replaced.

The fire completely destroyed other sculptures. The restorers were called upon here: the stone works of art were recreated based on photos or drawings. But when there were no more documents of the originals, the sculptors created new ones in the taste of the time.

In the magazine “La Fabrique de Notre-Dame”, which appears twice a year, Rebâtir Notre-Dame reports on the reconstruction. In issue 5/2023 from June 2023 you will find a report on page 48 (in French or English) about the stonemason tent that stood in the square in front of the cathedral from summer 2022 to early 2024.

The tent was really big, designed for ten workstations and a crane that could lift loads of several hundred tons. It was also important that the craftsmen could work there in daylight. The orders were awarded in batches to workshops from all over France – the planners specifically wanted to involve the entire country in the project and thus ensure a transfer of technical know-how according to the old model.

From page 28 onwards, that issue of the magazine deals with the printing ring for La Flèche.

Youngsters with the “Mallette pédagogique“.

In January 2024, the Ministry of Culture presented a “Mallette pédagogique” (Pedagogical Suitcase) aimed at the restorers and craftsmen of tomorrow: young people aged 12 to 17 will find a bundle of 13 activities through which they can explore the construction site and the Get to know work.

The exhibition “Au cœur du chantier” (At the heart of the worksite) at the Parvis de La Cathédrale offers information for everyone (until December 31st).

The reopening is scheduled to take place on December 08, 2024.

Rebâtir Notre-Dame

La Fabrique de Notre Dame

Video May 2024: Areal view of the building site


Timelapse January 2024: the scaffolding for La Flèche

See also:

(24.06.2024, USA: 06.24.2024)