Anyone who loves Paris watched mournfully as the roof of Notre-Dame burned in April 2019, with the Gothic cathedral’s spire falling before the flames went out.
Those same people have been heartened to hear that the iconic landmark will reopen by the end of 2024, French officials announced last week. The roof is being reconstructed to match its previous state after lengthy discussions about how best to restore the cathedral, work on which began in 1163. That includes the 315-foot spire, which was added in the 19th century. It also will include oak in the roof framework, as in the original.
"The return of the spire in Paris' sky will in my opinion be the symbol that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame," Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general heading the rebuilding project, told the Associated Press.
It took more than two years to stabilize the structure enough for construction to begin, which it did late last year. As visitors to Paris eagerly anticipate Notre-Dame’s reopening, an underground exhibition called “Notre-Dame de Paris: at the heart of the construction site,” has opened. Access is free, and the exhibition features remains from the fire as well as artwork removed during construction. It also highlights the expertise of the workers, about 1,000 of whom are on the job each day.
"The biggest challenge is to comply precisely every day to the planning we have done," Georgelin said. "We have a lot of different works to achieve: the framework, the painting, the stones, the vault, the organ, the stained glass and so on."
Philippe Jost, managing director of the government agency overseeing the reconstruction, told the AP the renovated Notre-Dame "will be faithful to the original architecture" both because "we are sticking to the vanished shapes of the cathedral" and because "we are also sticking to the materials and construction methods" of medieval times.
"We don't do concrete vaults that look like stone, we do stone vaults that we rebuild as they were built in the Middle Ages,” he said.
Notre-Dame will not be open in time for next summer’s Paris Olympics, but there will be a (paid) virtual reality exhibit detailing the cathedral’s history. Renovation work will continue into 2025 even after the cathedral reopens. It’s best to start planning early, as already-high demand will only rise with Notre-Dame’s return. No matter when you go, Paris is always a good idea.