Five years after the fire, Notre Dame rises from the ashes


Five years after the Notre Dame cathedral was destroyed by fire, it has returned to its former glory, months before its planned opening to the public.

The fire at the Unesco-listed cathedral, which at one stage had up to 12 million visitors a year, left the world shocked on 15 April 2019.

Notre Dame’s interior is currently at its most dazzling in human memory, according to recent visitors to the cathedral.

“It’s wonderful to see these colors that have completely disappeared,” said Guillaume Normand, vice-rector of Notre Dame, when he visited the fully restored chapel. “Absolutely beautiful,” he told AFP.

When the public returns to the cathedral in December, they will get an “unparalleled perception of its dimension”, added the cathedral’s rector, Olivier Ribadeau Dumas. He said he was “humbled” in the face of “those who preserved or saved it, and those who are now restoring it”.

Work continues to meet the December deadline for the reopening, the head of construction said last month.

The monument already experienced an important moment in February when scaffolding around the spire was demolished. Authorities say it will be fully visible by the time the Paris Olympics begin in July.

The spire is covered with lead, a material that has provoked great debate due to its possible toxicity.

R17 billion in donations

The cathedral got its large cross back in December, with a new golden rooster to replace the one destroyed in the fire.

Pres. Emmanuel Macron initially promised that the building would be fully restored by the time the Olympic Games begin, but the deadline was pushed back when construction work ran into some problems.

Authorities have still not determined the cause of the fire, although they believe it was an accident.

A fundraising campaign within hours of the fire attracted donations of more than €846 million (almost R17 billion).

Restoration work has been ongoing since 2019, apart from a few weeks during the Covid crisis.

All core targets of the restoration have been met, said Philippe Jost, president of the Herbou Notre Dame de Paris organization. The rebuilding of the hold, with wood from around 1,000 trees specially selected from French forests, was the most difficult, according to Jost.

About 250 companies and hundreds of craftsmen, architects and other professionals were involved in the restoration.

The cathedral’s organ, which was not damaged by the fire but covered in lead dust, was fully cleaned. However, this will mean six months of harmonization before the 8,000 pipes reach their full sound potential again.

Natural light in the cathedral currently shines at its brightest in people’s memory after the cleaning, Jost said.

The roof work over the nave, chancel and spire is some of the work that still needs to be completed in the summer, as well as restoration of the floor and furniture.

France has already requested applications to create modern stained glass for Notre Dame. Delivery is expected in 2026.