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Macron visits Notre Dame, marking one-year until reopening after 2019 fire
8 December 2023, 16:34
The French president has made annual trips to the cathedral as it undergoes extensive restoration work.
French President Emmanuel Macron has visited Notre Dame Cathedral, one year before its scheduled reopening in 2024.
After a blaze burned through the roof and spire on April 15 2019, Mr Macron’s visits have become a tradition, with Friday marking his sixth to highlight the rebuilding progress.
Huge oak beams have been hoisted skywards so the cathedral can be re-roofed.
The French leader went up the spire, reconstructed from its previous design by the famed 19th-century French architect Viollet-le-Duc.
It stands at 315 feet and was crowned with a cross earlier this week. It is soon to be topped by a rooster, restoring an emotional symbol for the French of their heritage.
The rooster was first used as a symbol of hope and faith in the Middle Ages, gaining its association with the French nation during the Renaissance.
Mr Macron told reporters: “Since April 2019, the entire nation has been rebuilding.
“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 December 8 2024.
During his visit, Mr Macron paid homage to General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who oversaw the reconstruction and died in August.
Wearing a hard hat, Mr Macron was given a tool to assist as Gen Georgelin’s name was inscribed in the wood of the spire under the aegis of an artisan, memorialising his contribution to the cathedral.
Mr 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 Mr 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.
Mr 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 memorialise the restoration period itself.