The Notre Dame Cathedral is set to welcome visitors in late 2024, more than five years after its iconic spire and roof collapsed in a blaze, French officials announced Monday.
The $865 million reconstruction project was launched in April 2019, but progressed in spurts due to the COVID-19 lockdown, a flurry of archaeological finds below the church’s foundation, and a controversial modernization plan.
“The supervision of the restoration is entrusted to the architect Philippe Villeneuve,” the Paris Tourist Office said in a statement, adding that “the general principle is to rebuild the cathedral identically, including the spire.”
Reconstruction began in earnest last year, following two years of excavations inside the historic structure to ensure it was stable enough for artisans to begin their work. The spire will be rebuilt according to architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc’s design after President Emmanuel Macron abandoned unpopular plans to replace the 19th century with a “contemporary architectural gesture.”
A revamping of the interior of the cathedral, however, was greenlit by France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission, the advisory group which oversees landmark restoration projects, despite considerable public outcry. Per the proposal, the new interior could include 20th and 21st century artworks hanging beside Old Master works from the cathedral’s collection, and a rearranged tabernacle to allow more room for visitors.
The French government originally planned to reopen the cathedral in summer 2024, in time for that year’s summer Olympics. Instead, tourists traveling to Paris for the event can visit the newly opened exhibition “Notre-Dame de Paris: at the heart of the construction site” in an underground gallery by the cathedral. The show is dedicated to the ongoing rebuilding process, spotlighting the skill of the 1,000 artisans on the restoration team – as well as the astounding work ahead for them. The plan calls for period-appropriate materials to rebuild the structure, which includes timber from 1,000 150-year-old trees for “The Forest,” as the 800-year-old roof is known.
“The return of the spire in Paris’ sky will in my opinion be the symbol that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame,” Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general overseeing the restoration project, told the Associated Press.