Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral will not celebrate Christmas Mass this year, for the first time in centuries. Restoration work continues on the 850-year-old cathedral, which was nearly destroyed in a devastating fire earlier this year.
As BBC News reports, Christmas Mass has been celebrated at the ancient cathedral for well over two centuries. Only once during that time has the special Mass not been held at the church, and that was during the French Revolution, in 1789, when revolutionaries briefly converted the church to a “Temple of Reason.”
This year, there will once again be no Christmas Day Mass at the church, for the first time in 230 years. However, on Christmas Eve, the traditional Midnight Mass will take place, albeit at a nearby church, Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.
Cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet said that the Paris Diocese is doing its best to make the experience at the alternate location as close to the real thing as possible. For example, the Mass at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois will include a wooden liturgical platform that has been made to resemble the one at the cathedral.
“We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak… but with some indicators that Notre-Dame is connected to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, restoration work continues on the centuries-old church, following the April 15 fire that nearly destroyed the structure.
Nearly €1 billion (approximately $1.1 billion) has been received or pledged from private donors to restore the church, according to France’s Culture Ministry. French President Emmanuel Macron has set a goal of having the church restored to its former glory within five years.
However, that estimate appears to be extremely ambitious. As CBS News reported days after the fire, some estimates suggest that it may take decades, not years, to restore the building.
The work to be done is daunting. The building lost one of its spires in the fire, a structure which will have to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. Further, restorers are wrestling with whether to restore the building using the same materials and methods used to construct it, or using more modern supplies and methods, which would help serve as a hedge against another fire.
Further, as Insider reported in April, France doesn’t have trees that are tall enough to meet the restoration needs, if restorers are going to rebuild the ancient wooden portions of the cathedral. Indeed, there may not even be enough suitable trees in all of Europe.
As of this writing, authorities have not determined the cause of the blaze. Authorities are considering the possibility that it may have started with an improperly disposed of cigarette butt, or possibly an electrical source.