(FILES) This file photo taken on March 27, 2019 shows a scaffold during the restauration of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, in Paris. A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.
AFP/Ludovic Marin
Notre-Dame, loved through the ages yet neglected: historian
Frédéric Pouchot (Agence France-Presse) - April 16, 2019 - 9:08am

PARIS, France — Notre-Dame Cathedral, ravaged by a huge fire which toppled its spire Monday before the gaze of shocked and helpless Paris residents and tourists, has been much beloved yet also neglected down the centuries, says a French historian.

Middle Ages specialist Claude Gauvard, also the author of a book on the Gothic masterpiece that dates from the mid-12th century, told AFP there was no overstating the site's cultural resonance.

But she added it had not always been treated with due reverence.

Notre-Dame "is a symbol of Paris, a symbol of peace, togetherness and concord... which occupies an exceptional site at the heart of the city." 

It is also kilometre zero -- the spot from which all distances to other cities from the French capital are measured.

"For me it is perhaps one of the most harmonious of cathedrals, symbolising at once the work of the craftsmen who built it -- though through the ages it has been much loved and yet unloved."

Gauvard explained: "Notre-Dame de Paris is much loved by the millions of French people and foreigners who visit each year -- yet they enter and go out again, I am sure, without quite understanding just what this cathedral is."

'Insufficient maintenance'

"It was much mutilated during both the Renaissance and the 18th century -- for example, they didn't hesitate to hack away at the main entrance to get through the king's dais! 

"It needed all the 19th century labours of Prosper Merimee, Victor Hugo, (Eugene) Viollet-le-Duc and (Jean-Baptiste) Lassus which allowed the Gothic art to be restored to its rightful place." 

And Gauvard also is of the opinion that not enough has been spent on maintenance. 

"The ongoing works finally got started -- and it was high time, and perhaps even a little late.

"I went up to the foot of the spire (before the renovations began) and some of the brickwork was disjointed, held in place by a grate to prevent it falling..."

As to whether the imposing site can be restored following Monday's inferno, Gauvard observed that "the fact the spire has toppled is not so serious as we shall reconstruct it in accordance with Viollet-le-Duc's blueprint,  which I greatly respect because without him the cathedral would no longer be there.

"It was he who constructed the spire as it crumbled in 1792 -- though that was not in connection with the French Revolution.

"Yet there will no longer be this 'forest', this magnificent wooden frame which held up the roofing... That's my fear; that the fire will reach the interior of the choristry."

And Gauvard said the competing interests regarding the site could hinder reconstruction.

"Notre Dame's problem is that it comes under several jurisdictions: the Archbishopric, Paris, historic monuments, etc. That complicates its maintenance.

"I hope that national, indeed international donantions will be forthcoming to finance the restoration as it's going to be very costly."

NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 15, 2019 - 1:37pm

Follow updates on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire here.

June 15, 2019 - 1:37pm

The Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris will host its first mass, exactly two months after the devastating blaze that shocked France and the world.

For safety reasons, the mass led by Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit will be celebrated on a very small scale. Worshippers will be expected to don hard hats but priests will be wearing their ceremonial garb.

There will be just some 30 people -- half of them clergy -- although the mass will be broadcast live on Catholic TV channel KTO. — AFP

May 3, 2019 - 7:03pm

French citizens will be consulted on how Notre-Dame should be rebuilt after the iconic cathedral was ravaged by a fire on April 15, Culture Minister Franck Riester says.

"The French will be able to express themselves, and then we'll see which decision (will be taken) and how Notre-Dame will be restored," Riester tells LCI television. — AFP

April 21, 2019 - 3:23pm

The popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron remains stuck at under 30 percent as he battles a series of political troubles, with no major change reported after the Notre-Dame fire, a poll said Sunday.

According to the Ifop poll for the Journal du Dimanche just 29 percent of people polled said they are satisfied with the job Macron is doing, with 69 percent dissatisfied.

This April reading was unchanged from the last poll in March, the newspaper said.

The poll, carried out up until April 20, was published at the end of a dramatic week for Macron which saw him address the nation over the damage to the Notre-Dame cathedral in Monday's devastating fire. -- Agence France-Presse

April 19, 2019 - 10:00am

French President Emmanuel Macron hails as "exemplary" hundreds of firefighters who saved Notre-Dame in the devastating blaze, as efforts intensified to shore up the still fragile cathedral.

Some 600 firefighters worked throughout the night Monday to put out the fire at the Paris landmark and prevent an even worse disaster, in a blaze that felled the spire and destroyed two-thirds of its roof. — AFP

April 18, 2019 - 3:43pm

Catholic worshippers feeling orphaned by the fire that ravaged part of Notre-Dame will be welcomed in an "ephemeral cathedral" of wood in front of the Paris monument until it reopens, Notre-Dame's chief priest says Thursday.

Speaking to France's CNews television channel Monsignor Patrick Chauvet says: "We mustn't say 'the cathedral is closed for five years and that's it'.

To give the faithful somewhere to congregate next to Notre-Dame, he suggests: "Can I not build an ephemeral cathedral on the esplanade (in front of Notre-Dame)?"

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had backed the idea and agreed to give over part of the esplanade to the church for a wooden structure, he says.

Chauvet says the wooden "cathedral" would host priests who could address some of the millions of tourists who throng the original 850-year-old Gothic cathedral each year. -- Agence France-Presse

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