Notre Dame cathedral: Spire to be rebuilt exactly as it was, Macron decides

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AP Photo/Thibault Camus

The spire of Notre Dame Cathedral which collapsed during a devastating blaze in April 2019 is to be rebuilt exactly as it was, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided.

Macron made the decision on Thursday after being presented with a 3,000-page report from the lead architect in charge of the reconstruction project, Philippe Villeneuve, on the methods he recommends to restore the framework, the roof and the spire of the cathedral.

Contrary to the French president, who indicated shortly after the disaster that “a contemporary architectural gesture” should be envisaged to replace the spire, Villeneuve had always pleaded loyalty to the original design.

The Gothic-style spire was added to the edifice during renovations in the 19th century. The designs by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc are still kept.

Macron’s comments about adding a modern touch to the medieval building had prompted architects around the world to send in their proposals which included a rooftop swimming pool, a green roof with a deck, a spire made out of glass covering an urban farm, and even a car park.

But Villeneuve argued that sticking to the original plans would enable a faster reconstruction, a key argument for Macron who has pledged that the monument would be fully restored in time for the 2024 Olympics to be held in Paris.

“The president trusted the experts and pre-approved the main lines of the project presented by the chief architect (Philippe Villeneuve), which plans to reconstruct the spire identically,” the presidency said in a statement on Thursday.

“The concern for the president was not to delay the construction site or to complicate the file. It was necessary to clarify things quickly.

“If it had been necessary to make a contemporary spire, it was necessary a specific competition, from where a potential delay of the building site. Consultations with great architects led to say that this bet of the contemporary spire was very complicated and that a gesture contemporary could imagine otherwise,” it added.

Workers began to dismantle the 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were fused together when the fire ripped through the monument last month. The delicate task, expected to take several months, was meant to start earlier but was delayed because of lockdown measures introduced to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fire on April 15, 2019 and the collapse of the iconic spire, watched live by millions around the world, prompted an outpouring of grief and donations.

More than a billion euros were pledged to the reconstruction.

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