Europe

Notre-Dame fire: Temporary wooden cathedral proposed

Fire fighters are at work on top of a tower of Notre-Dame Cathedral, as a crane lifts up constreuction material in Paris on April 17, 2019, Image copyright AFP
Image caption Notre-Dame was already undergoing renovation work when the fire broke out

A temporary wooden cathedral should be built in the shadow of Notre-Dame's famed towers while the building is being repaired, officials have said.

The structure would serve as a home for worshippers and tourists alike, the rector of the Paris landmark, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, suggested.

The 850-year-old Gothic cathedral has been closed after a fire tore through its roof and destroyed its spire.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed it will reopen in five years.

But temporary arrangements will need to be made in the meantime, Monsignor Chauvet told France's CNews.

"We mustn't say 'the cathedral is closed for five years and that's it'," he said.

"Can I not build an ephemeral cathedral on the esplanade [in front of Notre-Dame]?" he added.

The wooden structure, Monsignor Chauvet said, should be "beautiful, symbolic and attractive".

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is understood to have given her approval to the idea, which is not the first of its kind.

After the cathedral in New Zealand's Christchurch was destroyed in a 2011 earthquake, which left 185 people dead, a temporary structure was built.

Meanwhile, some in France have reacted negatively to the government's plan to invite architects from around the world to submit their designs for a new spire.

Notre-Dame before the fire in 360° video

The spire, which was added to the cathedral during a 19th Century restoration project led by French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, was completely destroyed when the fire took hold on Monday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters on Wednesday he hoped for "a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era".

But Mr Philippe questioned "whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc... or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire".

Jean-Marie Henriquet, 76, a descendant of Mr Viollet-le-Duc, said it needed to be rebuilt.

"Not reconstructing the spire would equate to amputating an element that belongs to it," he told news agency AFP.

What is the damage?

The blaze, which began on Monday evening and was not fully extinguished until almost 15 hours later, destroyed most of the cathedral's roof and led to the collapse of its famous spire.

Firefighters have used a drone to survey the scale of the destruction.

Interactive Inside Notre Dame

15 April 2019

Debris of the fallen spire inside Notre Dame

26 June 2018

Looking down on people attending a service of mass in the cathedral
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The cathedral's spire before and during the fire, then after it had collapsed

Photos appear to show that at least one of the famed rose windows survived, but there are concerns for some of the other stained-glass windows. The 18th Century organ has not been burned but it is not clear if it is damaged.

It was still too early to estimate the cost of the damage, said the Fondation du Patrimoine, an independent non-profit heritage group.

The main structure, including the two bell towers, was saved in a time window of 15 to 30 minutes by a team of 400 firefighters, Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez said.

But on Thursday, Culture Minister Franck Riester revealed there were still fears over the possible collapse of some parts of the building - including a gable between the bell towers, as well as one in the north transept.

What happens next?

Investigators trying to establish the cause of the fire have begun questioning workers from five companies involved in the renovations that were under way at the cathedral. Officials believe the works could have accidentally led to the disaster.

Offers of help to rebuild the cathedral have come from several world leaders, groups and individuals, including:

  • Billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group that owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, who pledged €100m
  • Bernard Arnault's family and their company LVMH, a business empire which includes Louis Vuitton and Sephora, who pledged €200m
  • French cosmetics giant L'Oreal and its founding Bettencourt family promised to give €200m while oil giant Total pledged €100m

Mr Riester said some of the artworks and religious items rescued would be sent to the Louvre museum where they would be kept and eventually restored.

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Media captionA look inside fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral

They include what is said to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus before his crucifixion and a tunic King Louis IX is said to have worn when he brought the crown to Paris.

Work to remove the cathedral's paintings will begin on Friday, Mr Riester said.

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