Notre-Dame is slowly recovering three years after the fire

Three years after the devastating fire, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is mostly cleared of a thick layer of soot as an army of artisans scramble to meet the deadline to reopen in time for the 2024 Olympics.

In view of the anniversary of the fire on Friday, the mammoth job of cleaning the walls, vaults and floor is almost finished, restoring the cathedral to its original whiteness.

The hell that engulfed the 12th-century Gothic landmark on April 15, 2019 caused its central structure to collapse and devastated the famous spire, clock and part of the vault, shocking millions of people around the world.

The cathedral typically welcomed nearly 12 million visitors a year, as well as hosting 2,400 services and 150 concerts.

As an icon of the city loved around the world, the fire sparked an outpouring of generosity with nearly € 844 million in donations raised from 340,000 donors in 150 countries to date, according to the public body that oversaw the restoration.

The hole left in the building is now filled with a forest of scaffolding.

The first phase of the titanic project involved clearing the rubble and burnt beams, reinforcing the flying buttresses and removing the deadly dust released by 450 tons of lead in the structure.

For the operation, which was completed last summer at a cost of 151 million euros, a temporary metal scaffold had to be built, largely on schedule despite a three-month hiatus in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. of Covid-19.

1,000 trees

Many of the tasks have been entrusted to specialized workshops throughout France.

They include the dismantling and cleaning of the huge 18th-century organ, the largest in France, spared from fire but covered in lead dust.

Stained glass windows, several statues and 22 large-format paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries were also sent for restoration.

The next important step is to reinstall the medieval wooden structure of the central nave and choir and 19th-century spire, which the team hopes will be completed in the first half of 2023.

A thousand trees have already been felled in national and private forests across France in preparation.

Meanwhile, stones are being extracted from quarries this week to begin rebuilding the damaged vaults.

Tests were carried out on two of the cathedral’s 24 chapels to put into practice the techniques necessary to recreate their original colors.

Work was slowed down in March by a big surprise, when a lead sarcophagus and the remains of a decorative stone partition from the 14th century were discovered in the ground.

In addition to restoring the building to its former glory, the diocese plans to add some new touches, integrating contemporary art and old masters, along with a more modern lighting system, mobile benches and biblical phrases projected on the walls in different languages.

A new system for visitors and worshipers will mean that when they return to the iconic cathedral in 2024, they will enter through the large central door rather than the side doors.