Almost three years after the devastating fire on April 15, 2019, we have a first glimpse at the reconstruction work on Notre-Dame Cathedral. Plans to rebuild the iconic structure were announced before damage was completely understood. Since then, careful work to stabilize the church, clear debris, and document the damage has continued. National Geographic, the only foreign media outlet with high-level access to efforts, shares with us new drone footage, photographs, and graphics to describe where we are today and what the future will hold for the cathedral.
“A doctrine of historical restoration is that you rebuild things to the last documented state,” says Robert Kunzig, the senior environmental editor who is covering the piece at National Geographic. Despite the playful and sometimes outrageous design proposals for the new Notre-Dame, the damaged 460-ton lead roof will probably not be replaced with an overly contemporary proposal. Instead, architects, structural engineers, and other experts will use tools to restore the existing roof and repair the wooden framework that held it up. This plan honors the 20-year restoration completed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc after the riot and fire of 1831.
The technical team making construction decisions found that work should begin on the spire, then the roofs and vaults. This should allow for the cathedral’s completion in 2024, a goal the French government hopes to achieve in line with the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Some of the team involved in documenting the current interiors for Notre-Dame include Robert Kunzig who tells the story of restoration efforts and photographer Tomas Van Houtryve. Houtryve wanted to be authentic in the representation of the church. He used a wooden camera, glass plates, and a portable darkroom to create photographs.
Kunzig summarizes the cultural importance and meaning of the rebuilding efforts beautifully by saying, “It’s not just a building. It’s part of the fabric of Parisian reality.”
Keep scrolling for more images of Notre-Dame. For even more coverage, head over to National Geographic.