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Notre Dame: 2 Years Later

Somehow, we have already reached the two year anniversary of the Notre Dame Fire! Let’s check in on how her restoration is coming along.

Some footage from October 2019 – north side of Notre Dame

I continue to be grateful that she remains standing and is slowly on the mend. The scale and amount of work being done to restore the cathedral is incredible and fascinating!

Current State of Affairs

First, a quick look at the overall timeline. President Macron announced immediately after the fire that the cathedral would be ready to go by 2024. I think most people recognized this as aspirational at best. But, even with the pandemic, the crew has been valiantly working toward her full restoration.

Unsurprisingly, Emmanuel Grégoire, the first (senior) deputy mayor of Paris, announced to the l’Assemblée Nationale in February that work will not be complete “before 2025.” They do intend to have a portion of the cathedral open by 2024 for religious services. This would at least partially satisfy Macron’s goal. A rector of the church also recently said that they expect the work to continue for “15-20” years. For anyone who has tried to reno their own home, let alone an 850-year-old church, this seems more reasonable!

That said, things really do seem to be moving along. The melted scaffolding is completely down, a protective “roof” is up, and Notre Dame is now offering external tours!

Construction detail, with a rather adorable gargoyle.

Notre Dame Now

Work on Notre Dame will continue for several years (at least!). For now, they have secured the structure and are preparing for the real reconstruction to begin. This includes the felling of over 1,000 French Oak trees to recreate the “forest” roof structure that was destroyed. These trees will come from over 200 forests and will take 18 months to dry out before they can fulfill their unique destiny.

For a few different perspectives on the work being done, I’ve collected several videos for your edification. The scale of project always amazes me!

Back in February, ABC put together an update in English for us anglophones:

Here’s a quick one from France24 English on the stained glass work. A longer video on the restoration can be found here.

Switching to French, I like this video because we can see some of the damage up close as well as the restoration efforts. Added bonus: the music and the narrator are suitably moody. Though I fear there is something wrong with the cat at the beginning? For a shorter option, with some (French) written explanations check out this vid.

And the last one. It’s an hour and entirely in French but goes in depth into what’s being done now. It was a collaboration between the newspaper Le Parisien and the organization managing the restoration. Weirdly, the video on the org’s Facebook Page is slightly different, with a better intro: more stained glass detail and a more personable speaker (sorry, general!). But this version actually wanted to embed on my site, so YouTube it is!

The Parvis Project

There is also a plan afoot to rework the parvis (courtyard) in front of Notre Dame, as well as the surrounding streets and the square Jean-XXIII (the park to the south and east of the cathedral). The city council is taking public opinions this week on the proposed plans (French PDF-not as easy to translate). We should see an update on those meetings soon!

This work won’t begin until 2025 and part of the budget would come from the 50 million euros the city promised to the Notre Dame project. Which is apparently a little controversial–as most public works funding is. The gist, as far as I can tell, is that Notre Dame is a state-run site and the 50 million are from the city’s coffers. I couldn’t tell if crossing the streams is verboten or just not the done thing.* There is also some umbrage taken about how the money was meant for the church, not the area around the church. However, this work would hopefully benefit the church with public toilets (finally!), a better queueing situation, and possibly a small museum.

*If someone has more info on why the city funding is controversial, please let us know in the comments!

Keeping up with Notre Dame

As with most things in France, keeping up on Notre Dame requires some determination and a willingness to function in French (or our buddy Google Translate). But here are a few resources to help keep you informed:

The Notre Dame Cathedral Website: to access information and support the church and diocese directly.

Sortir A Paris: Lots of information, without paywalls. There is more content in French, but English is available.

France24 English: For all things news in France, including Our Lady. Website | YouTube Channel

La Croix: French Newspaper, with fewer frustrating paywalls than Le Parisien or Le Monde (in my experience)

Rebatir Notre Dame de Paris: The organization in charge of the restoration. The website is a little underwhelming, but their Facebook page is quite active.

This week

The morning (in the U.S.) of April 15, 2021, the French Embassy in United States is doing a livestream on the status of Notre Dame. Never fear, if you missed the live stream, they put them up later on their YouTube Channel. 🙂

On Sunday, April 18, 2021, at 3:10pm ET, France24 will be airing live a Notre Dame special as well. These usually find their way to the regular YouTube Channel later as well.

When You Visit

Once we can do so safely, visiting Notre Dame is definitely on the top of my list (hugging it or not)! Because it is an active construction site, things are always subject to change. But right now the parvis holds some displays about the history of the cathedral and apparently a small store front supporting Notre Dame (replacing the small shop that was in the cathedral).

After lockdown (and until the Parvis Project?), the Archeological Crypt is back open. For the best information, check the French Version of the site–double check the language at the top. They don’t seem to be updating the English one with temporary closures.

If you simply need a gothic architecture fix, there is always the Saint Chappelle on the other side of the island. If you are looking for a historic place for mass nearby, the charming 17th century l’église Saint-Louis-en-l’Île just across the bridge on the Ile Saint Louis has daily mass (in French).

While we wait to return, you can support Notre Dame from home through their online shop.

Interior of Notre Dame, pre-fire. 2018.

Before the “Deo Gratius”

Before we go, is Notre Dame on your list of “must visit” places in Paris? If you have already been, what is your favorite memory? Let me know below!

I don’t know if I can choose my own favorite memory, there are so many! Notre Dame has been one of the first places I visit in Paris on every trip. A touchstone, a homecoming, and a thanksgiving all rolled into one. It was very hard to not fulfill this ritual on my last visit in 2019! But one of my favorite moments was probably waaaaay back in 1995, when we stumbled onto what must have been a choir practice. She was filled with the sound of medieval chant! And in the ’90s, mid-day, mid-week, the cathedral was relatively quiet. I wonder if the Parvis Project will also include some form of crowd management?

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Moveable Feast Book Corner–coming soon!

Au revoir for now! 🙂


Image Credits: All ©Michelle Keel, author. 2018/2019.


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