Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is a “monument of humanity”, says the architect

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is “a monument of humanity,” French architect Philippe Villeneuve told an audience in Washington.

He spoke during a recent program at the National Building Museum about the plan to restore the cathedral nearly three and a half years after a catastrophic fire engulfed its roof and collapsed the spire.

Villeneuve, chief architect of historic monuments in charge of the cathedral, is joined by his colleague Rémi Fromont, also chief architect of historic monuments.

Their remarks were delivered in French and translated live into English by Lindsay Cook, Assistant Professor of Architectural History in the Department of Art History at Pennsylvania State University. Their conference on September 26 was entitled “Notre-Dame de Paris: restoring a heritage”.

A February 2022 cover story in National Geographic magazine noted that Villeneuve had been leading restoration efforts at Notre Dame Cathedral since 2013, work that became urgent after the April 2019 fire.

Villeneuve thanked the museum public, saying: “It’s incredible to see, 6,000 kilometers from Paris, the same spirit that we ourselves have for Notre-Dame.”

He noted that before the fire, Fromont and a colleague had carried out the most comprehensive survey by hand of the roof to be done, and it proved invaluable in rebuilding the timber frame of the roof of the cathedral. “He’s in charge of the roof,” he said of his colleague.

Villeneuve explained that a third French architect, Pascal Prunet, connected the cathedral with universities and groups focusing on its components, structure and history, studying its burnt remains to better understand the cathedral as it progressed. as restoration work progresses.

“We are convinced that the five-year deadline, introduced by the French president, is still possible,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron had set a goal for the cathedral to be restored by 2024, the year Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

The two French architects came to Washington on a day when a life-size replica of the cathedral truss was erected on the campus of the Catholic University of America.

This 45-foot-wide by 35-foot-tall replica farmhouse was hand-hewn and built on campus in 2021 by faculty and students from Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning and by volunteers from the educational nonprofit Handshouse Studio.

They reproduced the traditional construction methods used when the cathedral was built in the Middle Ages, 800 years earlier, based on plans provided by the architects of Notre-Dame.

As they had done a year earlier, students, faculty, Handshouse Studio representatives and other AUC volunteers raised the replica farmhouse on the University Mall next to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Catholic University also held a roundtable on the restoration of the cathedral and an exhibition in its Crough Center for Architectural Studies that included student-designed replicas of Notre Dame Cathedral and its elements, including its famous arches. – flying buttresses.

The conference of French architects that evening was organized by the National Building Museum, where “Notre-Dame de Paris: the augmented exhibition” was presented from April 15 to October 15, 9.

The high-tech interactive exhibit provided an augmented reality immersion into the 850-year history of the cathedral and its ongoing restoration.

It covered the construction of Notre-Dame Cathedral, highlighted the events that took place there over the centuries that followed, and detailed its restoration after the 2019 fire. Since the laying of its first stone in 1163, the construction of the cathedral lasted almost two centuries.

During the lecture, Villeneuve pointed to some apparent miracles in the aftermath of the fire, such as the cathedral’s famous statue of Mary emerging largely unscathed, not far from piles of rubble from the collapsed roof.

He noted that “not a single stained glass window was damaged during the fire”, but the windows were removed for cleaning. The famous sculptures of chimeras or gargoyles in the cathedral were also not damaged.

And in a twist of fate, days before the fire, large statues of the 12 apostles had been removed from the base of the spire for restoration, so they were not damaged in the fire.

The cathedral’s most famous relics – including the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion and the tunic of King Louis IX, Saint-Louis – were carried out of the cathedral during the fire and saved.

“The furniture was also saved,” Villeneuve said, adding, “The organ, in particular, was saved, thankfully. That said, there was dust and ash from the fire, as well as lead dust, which had to be cleaned up.”

The French architect described the measures taken to stabilize the cathedral, including shoring the flying buttresses with wooden centering to prevent the structure from collapsing.

Fromont described how he and his colleague Cédric Trentesaux had done the detailed survey of the roof of the cathedral before the fire. “These drawings were completely handmade. Our goal was to draw everything we saw,” he said.

After the fire, these drawings guided their restoration work, as did other documents on the roof, including by the carpentry company that built the 19th-century spire and made a small model of it.

Fromont said the restoration plan for the roof and spire is to restore them to how they were before the fire.

The work “will largely be done by hand…the way craftsmen working on the site work best is to work as craftsmen did in the 13th century, that is, by hand”.

And Fromont said he traveled through oak forests all over France “to find the best oaks to restore the frame and the spire. … They are incredibly tall, straight and frankly perfect”. New trees will be planted to grow in their place, continuing the life cycle of forests, he said.

In his closing remarks, Villeneuve said a copper rooster sculpture that stood at the top of the cathedral’s spire was found after the fire heavily damaged in the street below, and will be replaced on the new spire by a redesigned rooster sculpture.

“I consider it a kind of phoenix,” he said of the work, which perhaps symbolizes the ultimate rebirth of the restored Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral.

Previous Small Business Tips: Financing Options You Can Take Advantage of
Next Inside Tennis Superstar Roger Federer's $25 Million Real Estate Portfolio