Notre Dame Cathedral Restoration Ignites Battle Between History And Modernity

Passenger ferries pass by the Notre-Dame Cathedral after sunset two days after a fire that caused widespread damage.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

After sustaining damage from a fire in April and losing its spire and most of the roof — leaving it at risk of complete collapse, as The Inquisitr reported the Notre Dame Cathedral is now in the hands of a restoration team that is currently in the middle of discussing how to proceed.

According to Euronews, architect Philippe Villeneuve, who was overseeing the cathedral’s renovations for six years before it caught fire, said the restoration should exactly recreate its spire.

“For me, not only must you redo the spire, but you must recreate it exactly.”

“We’re bound to the Venice Charter, which requires that we restore historic monuments in the last known state,” he added, pointing to the 1964 treaty for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites.

Villeneuve’s desire contradicts President Emmanuel Macron, who wants a “creative reconstruction” of Notre Dame Cathedral that represents “an alliance of tradition and modernity, a respectful audacity.” But Villeneuve believes that Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s construction was unique because it appeared timeless and “blended in with a 13th-century medieval masterpiece.”

“That’s what we have to aim for.”

Thus far, French citizens appear to be on Villeneuve’s side, with a YouGov poll showing that 54 percent are in favor of rebuilding Notre Dame as it was and 25 percent in favor of a contemporary architectural project.

Another roadblock in the cathedral’s reconstruction is the risk of collapse due to the destruction of its carpentry and vault in the central nave, which has decreased its resistance, according to mechanical engineer Paolo Vannucci from the University of Versailles. He believes that the cathedral would collapse if exposed to winds stronger than 55 miles per hour in its current state.

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“According to my calculations, the risks of a collapse of the vault are very high.”

Historic restoration specialist Christophe Villemain also believes that rain could put the structure at risk of collapse as well. He claims that if the rain falls on the vaulted ceiling and fills its haunches, “that would put the arches at risk of collapse.”

Macron is currently aiming to rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral within five years for the Olympic Games in 2024. But experts believe that this is a hasty timeline, and many are urging him to call the deadline off in favor of a longer timeframe to ensure the landmark’s proper reconstruction.

As of now, Macron appears to be overlooking criticism and plans to hold an international competition on the spire’s reconstruction.