Five years after the fire, Notre-Dame rises from the ashes. Here's how the work is progressing


By John

«Resurrected from the ashes»: five years after the devastating fire, Notre-Dame de Paris is gradually returning to its former splendor, in view of the reopening scheduled for 8 December 2024, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. According to what was reported by the site manager, Philippe Jost, the reconstruction work of the cathedral, symbol of Paris and one of the most emblematic places in France and Europe, is proceeding “within respect of time and budget”.

100 days after the start of the Paris 2024 Olympics (July 26-August 11), the spire that imploded before everyone's eyes on that fateful afternoon of April 15, 2019, seen worldwide, has returned to the sky of Paris, rebuilt identical to the nineteenth-century project by architect Eugène Viollet Le Duc.

Among the other challenges completed, in addition to the complex work of clearing the rubble, the reconstruction of the wooden roof – the so-called 'Forest of Notre-Damè' – concluded last March, with over a thousand bicentenary trees selected from the forests of France to reproduce it identical to the original from 1200.

Contributing to the rebirth of Notre-Dame de Paris were hundreds of workers, architects, restorers – including Italian ones – who worked despite a thousand constraints and difficulties: starting from the risks linked to lead dust – to clean and reclaim it – or stop of works during Covid-19. Inside, the cleaning of the walls, windows and decorations has now been completed.

“It's truly wonderful, these colors had completely disappeared”, underlines the vice-rector of Notre-Dame, Guillaume Normand, to the France Presse agency, showing one of the 24 completely restored chapels. Against all expectations, the three medieval rose windows, now perfectly cleaned, were not damaged by the flames, as were the large cross located at the back of the church and a statue of the Virgin and Child, “found intact in the midst of the smoking and miraculous rubble”, he underlines the prelate, enthusiastic about this “Legend of the Centuries” cathedral now bathed in new light. The fire of Notre-Dame sparked an unprecedented outburst of solidarity, with donations from all over the world amounting to 844 million euros.

Sergio Mattarella, on the occasion of his visit to France for the five hundredth anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, on 2 May 2019, was the first foreign president to visit the cathedral still wounded and covered in rubble. «I am here to bear witness to the friendship between Italy and France», said the head of state in that moving visit, observing that “all the main events in France from 1200 onwards have passed through here…And the cathedral of Notre- Dame reflects so much of the history and civilization of Europe.”

«This – added Mattarella before looking inside the devastated cathedral – explains why in Italy the hours of the fire were followed with anguish and affection, because among other things, France and Italy share a great sensitivity for cultural heritage ». Before the fire, the Parisian church welcomed 12 million visitors, 2,400 religious services and 150 concerts annually, numbers destined to grow after the reopening in December according to Notre-Dame officials.