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Notre Dame Cathedral Two Years After the Fire

Notre Dame

Two years after a fire devastated Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15th, 2019, here’s an update on how reconstruction works are coming along, as well as a behind-the-scenes peek of the filming of the big-budget docu-drama about what happened that night, “Notre Dame is Burning”.

Current State of the Reconstruction Work

President Macron has promised that Notre Dame Cathedral will be reopened in time for 2024 Olympics in Paris. But construction projects never go as planned even in the best of circumstances, and lead contamination, bad weather and the Covid pandemic have all caused considerable delays. It’s possible the cathedral will be stable enough to welcome visitors, but it’s clear the full extent of the restoration works will take at least a decade, if not more, to complete.

Here’s an overview of the reconstruction works by Radio France International (RFI) sharing the viewpoints of the people working on it (6 minutes, subtitles in English)

For more video footage of the progress, here’s an excellent report by France24 (in English), including a 17-minute video reportage showing the gorgeous restoration works carried out in the chapels that have already revealed some of the original painting done under Viollet Le Duc’s 19th-century restoration of the cathedral: “Rising from the Flames”

Architectural Digest Magazine features images of the cathedral’s restoration works, including the 200-year-old French oak trees that have been sourced to replace the “forest” that holds up Notre Dame’s roof: Two Years Later, Here’s the Latest With Notre-Dame’s Restoration

If you’re ready to dig deep into the intricacies of the restoration work, this article in Science Magazine is a fascinating look into what scientists have discovered on the site, from how the stone reacted to the fire to the after effects of the lead runoff from the melted roof into the Seine River below: “Scientists are leading Notre Dame’s restoration—and probing mysteries laid bare by its devastating fire”

Official Cathedral News

The official website for Notre Dame hasn’t been updated much since the fire aside from a small statement. The “actualités” page has a few announcements from 2020 and the sidebar calendar which keeps congregants updated on masses (which now take place in Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, next to the Louvre). It also seems to only be available in French now (it previously had multiple language options), so if you don’t follow French you’ll need to use an auto-translator to read all of the historical information in the “Découvrir” section (or cheat like I do and use the Wayback Machine to access the previous version of the website in English).

For more regular news, photos, and other updates, it’s best to follow their social media accounts, where they’re active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Notre Dame Cathedral under reconstruction
Crane and scaffolding at Notre Dame, April 2021

Boutique & Donations

You can support the reconstruction and restoration works either through direct donations or by shopping in their official online boutique (worldwide delivery is possible, and if you live in Paris you can pick up your order at their offices on the Ile de la Cité).

If you’re in the United States, you can make a tax-deductible donation through the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris (who allow you to make a general contribution or donate towards the restoration of a specific artwork or statue…the gargoyles are particularly popular!)

Docu-Drama in the Making

Last week I was riding my bike along the Ile de la Cité and saw a bunch of fire trucks and tents on the parvis (the square) in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. I stopped to see what was happening and found out it was the crew for “Notre Dame Brûle” (Notre Dame is Burning), a big-budget docu-drama by French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud (best known for The Name of the Rose and Seven Years in Tibet). It is due in theatres on April 13th, 2022.

First three minutes only, in English.
A longer reportage, in French only.

Most of the crowd scenes have already been filmed at other French Gothic churches such as the Cathedral de Sens and St-Denis Basilica, both which were built in the same time period and have very similar architectural details. The fire scenes are being filmed on studio sets just north of Paris, specifically built to replicate the towers, spire, and interior of the church.

Public Appeal for Footage

Last month the director made a public appeal for video footage from that night, not of the cathedral on fire but of the people singing and praying along the banks of the Seine, the traffic jams caused in the center of the city, and even reactions by people watching the fire on TV from abroad caught on film. They will pay for the rights of any footage used in the final cut: notredameonfire.org

Notre Dame on Fire
My photo taken from the Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville just after the spire collapsed, April 15, 2019

And for those missing it, click here for the Sounds of Notre Dame Cathedral

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