Notre Dame Rector Warns of Complicated Rebuild: ‘It Is Not Out of Danger’

Tobias Hoonhout

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was badly burned in April, faces just a 50-50 chance of survival, according to its rector.

“Today it is not out of danger,” Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said before Christmas Eve midnight Mass at a nearby church. “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding.”

Just days before Easter Sunday, flames and smoke engulfed the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral and the scaffolding surrounding it, causing the roof and the spire to collapse. After hours of battling the blaze, the chief of Paris firefighters said they had managed to keep the main structure “saved and preserved in its entirety.”

In the aftermath of the blaze, which authorities said was likely related to the restoration work on the cathedral that was in progress, more than $1 billion was pledged by thousands of donors to finance the reconstruction.

“We are a people of builders,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in announcing the reconstruction effort, setting a goal of 2024 for the completed project.

“We will rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral. Even more beautifully.”

But Chauvet said that the process will be complicated, and expected a full renovation to take much longer. Part of the initial process has been carefully removing the scaffolding damaged in the fire.

“We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe,” Chauvet said. “Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”

The cathedral did hold a modest service in June in its Chapel of the Virgin, marking 850 years since the consecration of the cathedral’s altar, but the small congregation was required to wear hard hats under a ceiling with gaping holes.

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