Notre-Dame de Paris detaches step by step from the supporting structures 4 years after the inferno

The photo shows the thrust ring in the center of the vault above the transept. The famous La Flèche crossing tower will rest on it. Photo: Patrick Zachmann – Magnum / RNDP

In the months since December 2022, the first vault and the substructure for the crossing tower La Flèche have been restored

Automatic translation at the top of this web page under “Select Language“ The photo shows the thrust ring in the center of the vault above the transept. The famous La Flèche crossing tower will rest on it. Photo: Patrick Zachmann – Magnum / RNDP

The restoration of the first vault was described as an “important milestone“ by Jean-Louis Georgelin. Georgelin, a former army general, was appointed State Representative by President Emmanuel Macron, referring to the symbolic effect of the structure slowly freeing itself from the stabilizing scaffolding and moving completely onto its own static.

Southern fassade with La Flèche, seen from the Panthéon. Photo: Simdaperce / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

The photo shows the thrust ring in the center of the vault above the transept. On it will rest the famous crossing tower. When it broke away to the side in the sea of flames and plunged into the depths, the end of the cathedral was sealed for many observers.

It is known under the name The Flèche (The Arrow). It dates from the 19th century and was designed by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The filigree spire is important to the overall effect of the massive building: it provides a light but visually effective counterweight to the massive towers on either side of the main entrance in the center of the structure.

The reconstruction is to be made of wood again, following the original. With the height of 26 m, this requires special material: we have linked below to 2 videos that follow the path of 8 oaks from a forest near Bercé (Sarthe) to the construction site: the selected trees were 22 m (7 stories) high and yet exceptionally slender because they grew for centuries in a narrow forest and were protected from the wind by neighboring trees. In the video, an expert praises the quality of the material: the fibers had grown dead straight along their entire length, giving the wood exceptional durability.

The following screenshot shows the loading of these enormous matchsticks for transport to the only sawmill in France that can process such trees.

The screenshot shows the loading of the enourmous oak logs for La Flèche.

In another video, figures are given for the total consumption of wood: a total of 1260 oaks were felled in private, community or state forests. All the participants saw taking part in the project as a national task.

About 1000 m³ are needed to replace the burnt stones or restore the damaged ones. They come from 9 quarries, but they are no longer the original quarries. Also for the stone only the best material was selected.

In the meantime, teams of stonemasons have moved into the so-called sculpture atelier under the tent roof in the forecourt of the cathedral to repair or recreate the damaged sculptures from the walls of the cathedral.

Inside, the cleaning and simultaneous restoration of the 42,000 m² of wall surfaces is largely complete. This applies to the main nave and the side aisles as well as to the 24 chapels. In addition to stonemasons, muralists, blacksmiths, carpenters and stained glass artists are at work, to name just a few. The organ is also being restored, as are the marble inlays in the floor, although they had not been damaged.

Already the scaffolding is being dismantled in individual parts of the massive building.

Poster of the exhibition. Source : Médiathèque du patrimoine et de l'architecture / Dist. RMN - Grand Palais


Until April 24, 2023, the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine in Paris will host the exhibition “Notre-Dame de Paris. Des bâtisseurs au restaurateurs“ (Notre-Dame de Paris. From the builders to the restorers) will take place. It unfolds a tableau of many aspects, from questions of design and construction to “the generosity of 340,000 donors from 150 countries… mobilized as early as the night of the fire,“ according to the webpage.

It continues, “In the heart of Paris and in numerous workshops throughout France, an extraordinary human adventure is taking place: Journeymen, craftsmen, architects, engineers and researchers are all mobilized to bring the building back to life. These men and women join the long line of master builders who have shaped the history of this world heritage site…. In addition, the exhibition is an opportunity to learn about the evolution of techniques used on heritage construction sites.“

Weathercock on the belfry of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo: Franck Renoir / Cité de l'architecture

Rebâtir Notre-Dame (French)

Videos: steps toward refurbishment of the vault (French 1, 2)

„Notre-Dame de Paris. Des bâtisseurs au restaurateurs“ (French)

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(13.03.2023, USA: 03.13.2023)