Scaffolding on Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame “not out of danger”, only “50% chance” it will be saved, alerts rector

Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral is “not out of danger” after the disastrous fire there this April, and there’s only a “50% chance” it will be saved, the monument’s rector has alerted.

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“Today [Notre Dame] is not out of danger”, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet told the AP from a nearby church, Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, to which the cathedral’s congregation decamped for a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

“It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding”, the priest added.

Chauvet explained that the some 50,000 tubes installed to reinforce the structure in a renovation planned for before the blaze could fall from fire damage at any time on to the stone vaults.

Since the flames destroyed the roof and spire, those vaults are the only architectonic elements keeping the building upright.

“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile”, the priest cautioned.

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As for the timeline on the rebuild, Chauvet said first “we need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral”.

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That removal of the scaffolding began December 26, reported Reuters, with dozens of sensors, crack detectors and lasers in place to alert of any sign of further damage.

“Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced”, the priest affirmed.

Chauvet estimated that it would probably take three years from 2021 to restore the Parisian icon to its former glory.

That’s a tight fit with President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to have the cathedral ready for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Not that the fire damage, tons of lead dust still being cleaned up and the barricade around the cathedral forecourt are keeping people away from the landmark, given that French authorities estimate that some two million people have visited the monument so far this holiday season.

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Why it matters

Without doubt the most affected by the slow progress on the Notre Dame restoration have been the cathedral’s parishioners.

Among them, rector Chauvet himself, who told the AP of his “heartache” that Notre Dame went without Christmas celebrations this year for the first time since the French Revolution.

Other citizens and tourists described the scar on the city caused by the April fire in the cathedral as “heartbreaking”, “barren”, “burned to the core”, and of the hole left in Parisian life as “sadness” itself.

Some small consolation, though, are the some 320,000 donations and pledges that have so far been received for the cathedral’s restoration, to a total of 922 million euros (over $1 billion).

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