France asks: should Notre-Dame's spire be rebuilt as it was?




  • In World
  • 2019-04-17 17:01:02Z
  • By By Richard Lough and Caroline Pailliez

By Richard Lough and Caroline Pailliez

PARIS (Reuters) - France will open the redesign of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral's historic spire to international architects after Monday night's catastrophic blaze that gutted the centuries-old roof and sent the towering spire crashing through the vaulted ceiling.

The government's announcement on Wednesday added to a question many are asking as France grieves for its damaged national symbol - whether the familiar outline at the heart of the capital should be restored exactly as it was or given a modern twist.

President Emmanuel Macron pledged in a prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday that Notre-Dame would be rebuilt within five years. Tycoons, international firms, local authorities and individuals have promised financial and expert help - with a total of nearly 900 million euros pledged by Wednesday.

The cathedral was built over nearly 200 years starting in the middle of the 12th century, although it was only in the mid 1800s that architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc added the lead-covered spire during restoration work.

"The international competition will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

"Or whether, as is often the case during the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire that reflects the techniques and challenges of our era."

Monday's inferno devastated a world treasure, prompting an outpouring of collective sorrow and soul-searching in France over whether to recreate the destroyed oak-framed roofing and spire or adapt the cathedral to the 21st century.

As Philippe spoke, firefighters were working to stabilise a fire-ravaged pinnacle that houses one of Notre-Dame's 13th-century stained-glass rose windows.

There was no immediate danger that the structure would topple but statues were also being removed to reduce the risk of movement, the fire service's spokesman said.

"Today, there is no risk of collapse. Our priority is to stabilise the pinnacles which are weakened, since they are no longer held up by the roof and its frame," Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Plus told Reuters.

(Graphic: 3D diagram of Notre-Dame - https://tmsnrt.rs/2DgH76t)

REPLICATE OR RESHAPE?

It was not yet known what caused the blaze.

The city's public prosecutor, Remy Heitz, said on Tuesday there was no sign of arson and it was likely to have been the result of an accident. Some 50 people were working on what would be a long and complex investigation, he said.

Passers-by laid flowers on bridges crossing the Seine River as Parisians gave thanks to see the bell towers standing valiantly after the fire.

Notre-Dame is not the first French cathedral to suffer a devastating fire. Among past catastrophes, a 1972 fire engulfed the roof of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes. Concrete was used in the subsequent reconstruction of gables and roof beams.

"What's extraordinary is that Notre-Dame's roof lasted until 2019," Francois Chatillon, a prominent architect and specialist in historic monuments, told Reuters.

In a city that has a strong tendency to preserve and initially balked at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum's glass pyramid, before they too became nationally loved, altering the cathedral's outline could prove unpopular.

Benjamin Mouton, Notre-Dame's affiliated architect between 2000-2013, said it was pointless to be dogmatic about using the same materials for the restoration of a building that has already been "heavily altered, modified and reinforced".

"On the other hand, we must recreate the cathedral's silhouette and rebuild the spire. That to me is indispensable," said Mouton, who logged each of the timber beams in Notre-Dame's attic that was dubbed the "forest".

(Graphic: The fire at Notre-Dame - https://tmsnrt.rs/2XgGCRi)

NEW TAX BREAK FOR SMALL DONATIONS

Concerns over the cathedral's structural soundness have prevented investigators from entering Notre-Dame's main nave to assess damage at ground level.

As the scale of damage was revealed, billionaires and corporate giants lined up to pledge huge donations. Their largesse raised questions among some French people over whether they had hidden motives such as seeking tax breaks.

Philippe said his government would draft new legislation to introduce a 75 percent tax deduction on private donations up to 1,000 euros. The deductible will remain at 66 percent for bigger sums.

The cathedral has been at the centre of a long-running financing dispute and pleas from the Church for more cash.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Julie Carriat, Richard Lough, Pascale Denis and Marine Pennetier; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry)

COMMENTS

More Related News

Thousands protest mass Renault job cuts
Thousands protest mass Renault job cuts

Thousands of workers rallied Saturday outside the Renault factory in northern France to protest the automaker's decision to cut 15,000 jobs worldwide, including 4,600 in France. Unions said 8,000 people took part in the protest at the Maubeuge subsidiary over the cuts designed to help Renault steer out of a cash crunch exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. "This demonstration today is very important, even if it is a first step, to show the government and Renault that workers and residents of this area are committed to this company and that we have support," Delvaux added.

France, Britain, Germany
France, Britain, Germany 'regret' U.S. end to Iran nuclear waivers

France, Germany and Britain on Saturday criticised a U.S. decision to end sanctions waivers allowing work on Iranian nuclear sites designed to prevent weapons development. "We deeply regret the U.S. decision to end the three waivers," the three European countries said in a joint statement. "These projects, endorsed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, serve the non-proliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities."

As football restarts around Europe, France questions decision end to season early
As football restarts around Europe, France questions decision end to season early

In contrast, a fortnight has already passed since the German Bundesliga restarted. On Thursday Italy's sports minister confirmed that Serie A will return on June 20, while La Liga and the Premier League both look set to be back underway by then. "Like idiots" was the headline on the front of L'Equipe on Friday, as the sports daily questioned why such a hasty decision was made by the league (LFP) to end the season.

Plastic bubble brings joy to French nursing home
Plastic bubble brings joy to French nursing home

Nathalie Szczepaniak caresses the hand of her husband Joseph, a care home resident, as the couple reunites after weeks without a visit because of France's coronavirus lockdown. The couple meets in an anti-virus "bubble" at Joseph's nursing home in Bourbourg, northern France, separated by a clear plastic sheet that allows them some physical contact, face-to-face, without the risk of infection. Nathalie holds up the couple's dog, a white fluffy creature named Valco, so that Joseph, who has Parkinson's disease, can press his palm to its paw through the plastic.

Coronavirus: France set to roll out contact-tracing app before UK
Coronavirus: France set to roll out contact-tracing app before UK

One minister has compared the UK and France's outlier approaches to their nuclear deterrent effort.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World