“Notre-Dame spire must be rebuilt as it was in the 19th Century”
On Thursday, July 9, 2020, the chief architects of Historical Monuments, Philippe Villeneuve, Rémi Fromont and Pascal Prunet presented restoration plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral to the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture (CNPA), the advisory council that handles important restoration projects in France.
The study presented plans to respect the previously existing structure of the monument and to restore the cathedral to its last “complete, coherent and known” state, as recommended in the 1964 Venice Charter, applicable in the cases when this state is perfectly documented and reconstruction is feasible.
This includes rebuilding the spire identical to the one designed in the 19th Century by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, as it existed before the fire of April 15, 2019. Rebuilding efforts will also use original materials, like wood for the roofing. These restoration measures will ensure the authenticity, harmony and coherence of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
CNPA unanimously approved the architects’ recommendations that Notre-Dame Cathedral be restored to its prior state.
This report was also approved by President Emmanuel Macron of France. President Macron’s office said on Thursday that he had “become convinced” that Notre-Dame Cathedral had to be restored in a way that was “as true as possible” to its “complete, coherent and last known state.”
Spire Debate: Traditional versus Modern Design
The announcement puts an end to speculation about whether the roof and the spire, or “fleche” as it is known in France, would be rebuilt according to the traditional, pre-existing appearance or with a modern design and using materials like glass and metal.
As a member of the donors committee for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris, Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris had the opportunity to convey the general opinion of its donors that were strongly in favor of rebuilding the original spire of Viollet-le-Duc, in the weeks prior to the announcement.
Notre-Dame Cathedral’s Spire
Notre-Dame Cathedral’s first spire was built in the 13th Century but was removed in the late 18th Century due to extensive damage and the risk of collapse it posed to pedestrians below. Its replacement, the spire that most today people are familiar with, was designed by Viollet-le-Duc and built in the mid-19th Century as part of the last major renovation of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The announcement also means that the massive statues of the saints and apostles that adorned the previous spire will return to a familiar-looking home.
Fortunately, these statues were removed for restoration a few days before the devastating fire destroyed the spire. They are currently being cleaned and restored by expert artisans in a workshop in Périgueux, a town located in the center of France.
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