Paris, France: Alternative designs for Notre Dame spire scrapped

Notre Dame's spire, which crashed to earth in flames last year when the cathedral caught fire, should be rebuilt as it was, a commission of experts was due to advise last night.

Roselyne Bachelot, France's new culture minister, pre-empted the verdict from the French National Heritage and Architecture Commission (CNPA) by telling French radio that "there was a wide consensus in public opinion and among those deciding" that a modern spire was not the way to go.

The iconic Gothic edifice lost its 19th-century spire, designed by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, when it fell into the nave of the church along with a large chunk of the roof last April.

Firemen only just managed to save the cathedral, the near destruction of which sent shock waves through France. While the CNPA was expected to call for the spire to be rebuilt in identical fashion, Ms Bachelot said that Emmanuel Macron, the president, would have the last word.

After the fire, Mr Macron said that "a contemporary architectural gesture might be envisaged" to replace the 96-metre spire "since it wasn't part of the original cathedral".

The spire was added in the mid-19th century, replacing a medieval one that was removed in 1786.

He suggested a gesture of modernity on the 13th-century monument, one that showed "respectful daring".

However,  this didn't stop architects around the world contributing less conventional proposals such as a rooftop pool, a giant park and a greenhouse on the roof, according to the BBC.

It prompted much public debate, with some arguing there was no need to replace what was already an anachronism.


But on the commission is Jean-Michel Leniaud, an expert of Viollet-le-Duc, who recently got almost 1,200 curators, architects and historians to sign a petition calling on the president to err on the side of "prudence".

Philippe Villeneuve, the cathedral's chief architect, wrote a 3,000-page report on the cathedral's reconstruction, which he was due to outline yesterday.

Mr Macron wants Notre-Dame restored to its former glory by 2024, in time for the Paris Olympics. However, reconstruction work has been beset by delays due to bad weather, concerns over lead pollution and the coronavirus pandemic.

Work has recently begun to remove 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that melted around the cathedral in the intense heat of the fire. The delicate exercise is due to be completed by the end of September.

The wooden roof of the cathedral caught fire during restoration works, prompting shock and pledges of around a billion euros in donations towards rebuilding it.

More debate was expected over whether to replace its burnt "forest" of medieval beams with non-flammable ones or in the style of the original.

The Telegraph, London

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