Notre Dame Cathedral to welcome back visitors in December 2024
French officials said Monday that Notre Dame was rebuilt fast enough to reopen to tourists and worshipers in late 2024, less than six years after the roof was destroyed by fire.
General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general in charge of the sprawling project, said the cathedral’s iconic spire, which collapsed in the fire, would gradually reappear above the monument this year in a strong sign of its revival.
“In my opinion, the return of the spire in Paris will be a symbol of our winning the battle for Notre Dame,” he told The Associated Press.
The reconstruction itself began last year after more than two years of work to get the monument stable and safe enough for artisans to start rebuilding it.
The authorities have decided to restore the 12th-century monument, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, as it was. These include rebuilding the 93-meter-high (315-foot) spire added in the 19th century by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
Meanwhile, an exhibit titled “Notre Dame: Heart of the Building Site” opened to visitors on Tuesday at the underground facility in front of the cathedral. It is free to access and highlights the ongoing operations of the site and the expertise and skills of the workers. It also includes some remains of the fire and artwork from the cathedral.
General George Lam said the cathedral would reopen in December 2024, in line with a target set by President Emmanuel Macron after the blaze – but not for the opening scheduled for next summer. It is too late for the Paris Olympics.
“My job is to get the cathedral ready to open in 2024. We will do it,” General Georgelin said. “We’re fighting for this every day and we’re on a good path.”
This, he said, “means that the archbishop of the capital will once again be able to celebrate the Catholic liturgy in his cathedral” and that the monument will also be “open for visitors”.
Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak told The Associated Press that doesn’t mean all renovations will be completed by then. “There will still be some renovations in 2025,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, new exhibits near the cathedral will allow visitors, including those coming for the Olympics, “to experience the experience of visiting Notre Dame in a whole new way,” she said. In addition to being free to visit, the virtual reality show will give paying visitors an insight into the history of the cathedral. “It will also help tourism in Paris,” she added.
General Georgelin said that every day in the capital and across the country, about 1,000 people worked to rebuild Notre Dame.
“The biggest challenge is sticking to the plan we have made every day,” he stressed. “We had a lot of different pieces to do: frames, paintings, stones, vaults, organs, stained glass, and more.”
Philippe Jost, managing director of the government agency responsible for the reconstruction, noted that the result “will be faithful to the original architecture”, both because “we insisted on the lost shape of the cathedral” and because “we also insisted on the materials” and construction methods” of the Middle Ages.
“We don’t do concrete vaults that look like stone, we do reconstructed stone vaults like they were built in the Middle Ages,” Jost said, adding that the roof frame will also be made of oak as it was originally.