Macron visits Notre Dame, marking 1-year countdown to reopening after the 2019 fire

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron visited Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, one year before its scheduled reopening in 2024.

After a blaze burned through the roof and spire on April 15, 2019, Macron’s visits have become a tradition, with Friday marking his sixth to highlight the rebuilding progress. Huge oak beams have been hoisted skyward so the cathedral can be re-roofed. The French leader on Friday went up the spire, reconstructed from its previous design by the famed 19th-century French architect Viollet-le-Duc. It stands at 96 meters (315 feet) and will soon be crowned with a cross and a rooster, restoring an emotional symbol for the French of their heritage.

“Since April 2019, the entire nation has been rebuilding,” Macron told reporters. “And it’s very moving to be here a year before. You can see the extraordinary progress of the work on this nave, the choir and the frames and the spire.”

The schedule calls for the completion of the penultimate restoration phase by the end of the year, with the cathedral’s much-anticipated reopening set for Dec. 8, 2024.

During his visit, Macron paid homage to Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who oversaw the reconstruction and died in August. Wearing a hardhat, Macron was given a tool to assist as Georgelin’s name was inscribed in the wood of the spire under the aegis of an artisan, memorializing the general’s contribution to the cathedral.

Macron’s visit underscored a personal attachment to the architectural jewel, a symbol of the country’s rich cultural, literary, and religious history.

An evocative scene also unfolded as Macron, accompanied by his wife Brigitte Macron, observed the restoration works. The French first lady stood attentively before excavations by France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research where archaeologists uncovered a 13th-century skeleton, adding a layer of historical depth to the restoration efforts.

To prevent lead contamination, all workers and visitors — including the presidential party — wore protective suits, adhering to the meticulous safety precautions in place.

Macron also surveyed improvements in the cathedral’s nave and choir and discussed future projects, including a new museum and contemporary stained-glass windows to memorialize the restoration period itself.


Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

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