On April 15 2019, the historic Notre Dame cathedral caught fire and burned. Firefighters battling the blaze were able to save key parts of the structure, including the buttresses, facade, stained glass windows, towers, and walls, though the spire and roof were both destroyed. Immediately after the fire, the French authorities made it clear that there was still some risk of collapse in windy weather. Eight months later, there’s still a 50/50 chance we lose the building altogether according to its rector, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet.
Christmas services were not held in the church for the first time since the French revolution. “Today it is not out of danger,” Monsignor Chauvet told the Associated Press on the sidelines of Christmas Eve midnight Mass in a nearby church. “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding.”
“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he said.
The problem with Notre Dame’s restoration is that the cathedral was already under restoration when it caught fire, with some 50,000 tubes of scaffolding spanning the structure. The roof burned around the scaffolding and the spire collapse further damaged it. The problem, of course, is that there’s no way to start fixing the damage without taking down the old scaffolding first. That’s scheduled to take until 2021, at which point the actual restoration work can begin.
There have been serious concerns about Notre Dame’s ability to remain standing without its roof, which acted to stabilize the structure. The high vaulted ceilings of the cathedral also act to stabilize its walls, which is why Chauvet is so concerned — any damage to the vaults by further scaffolding collapse could fatally compromise the cathedral.
“We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral,” 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 French government has passed a law requiring Notre Dame to be restored to its exact original appearance. Further damage to the cathedral from scaffolding collapse could make that significantly more expensive, or even downright impossible.
- Notre Dame Is Burning. A Digital Archive Could Hold the Key to Restoring It
- Colossal Achievement: Half-Ton Firefighting Robot Helps Save Notre Dame
- Mysteries of Notre Dame cathedral revealed — with lasers