A glimpse of Notre Dame after the fire

Notre Dame exterior
Photo: Tomas van Houtryve

The technical team making construction decisions found that work should begin on the spire, then the roofs and vaults. This should allow for the cathedral’s completion in 2024, a goal the French government hopes to achieve in line with the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Some of the team involved in documenting the current interiors for Notre Dame include Robert Kunzig who tells the story of restoration efforts and photographer Tomas Van Houtryve. Houtryve wanted to be authentic in the representation of the church. He used a wooden camera, glass plates, and a portable darkroom to create photographs.

Kunzig summarizes the cultural importance and meaning of the rebuilding efforts beautifully by saying, “It’s not just a building. It’s part of the fabric of Parisian reality.”


Fly a drone around Notre Dame?

Photo: Tomas van Houtryve

The massive blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019 devastated one of the most notable monuments in Paris, placing it at the heart of the national conversation in France in a way that had not been seen since Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the 19th century.

The 850-year-old monument is a symbol of French heritage dating back to the Middle Ages. Tomas Van Houtryve, a Belgian-American photographer, artist and film-maker,  says the blaze and reconstruction created a new sense of appreciation for the cathedral.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” says van Houtryve. “You always have to work on preserving and protecting and cherishing what’s important around you.”


New virtual reality exhibition of Notre Dame

Inside Notre Dame
Photo: Orange Emissive

From Saturday, January 15th of 2022 the exhibition will allow people to engage with the site in an entirely new way, through virtual reality.

For €30 visitors to the Espace Grande Arche de la Défense just outside of Paris can enter the exhibition space, put on a VR headset and experience some 800 years of history – from the 12th Century to the present day. This journey through time takes around 40-45 minutes. English-language narration is also provided.


The musical spirit of Notre Dame

Notre Dame organ
Photo: Joann Pai

Since the fire, the cathedral’s ancient music school and its choirs, called the Maîtrise of Notre Dame, has struggled financially. The state and the city of Paris eliminated funding. The school lost one third of its 2 million euros a year budget and had to fire most of its staff and musicians.

“We went through a period of deep mourning, but now we are motivated by the certainty that Notre-Dame will one day reopen” said Yves Castagnet, the master organist who has played at Notre-Dame for 33 years. “Meanwhile, our mission is to preserve and spread the spirit of our great cathedral outside its walls. We have become the city’s ambassadors of sound.”

The musicians now perform like a band of musical nomads, awaiting their return home. Tourists — whether believers or not — who had made the Cathedral a pilgrimage site have been left bereft. The sense of loss is especially acute during the Christmas holidays, when Notre Dame’s midnight Christmas mass doubled as a glorious organ and choir concert. But there is a surefire way to emulate the joy and comfort previously found at Notre Dame, follow the music.


Notre Dame redesign is not too radical

Vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Plans to replace the gothic ambience of Notre Dame cathedral with a softer vibe of modern art and warm lighting have raised a few eyebrows, but the priest in charge denies any radical transformation is afoot.

Gone would be the traditional straw chairs, to be replaced by more comfortable benches with their own little lamps to brighten the gloom — perhaps even able to disappear into the floor when not in use to leave more room for tourists.


Lead contamination lessons from Notre Dame

Notre Dame fire
Photo: Baidax

During a structure fire, lead fumes are produced when lead or lead-containing materials are heated to temperatures above 500° C.  At these temperatures, lead vapour is released in the form of highly toxic lead oxide fumes. This vapour then condenses into solid fume particles which are released into the atmosphere.

Although the sheer volume of lead that vaporized in the Notre Dame fire was unique, fire restoration practitioners need to be aware of the likelihood that lead may be present in any fire-damaged structure, especially those built after 1978.


Notre Dame cathedral secured at last

Notre Dame exterior 2021 April
Photo: Francois Mori

Notre Dame Cathedral is finally stable and secure enough for artisans to start rebuilding it, more than two years after the shocking fire that tore through its roof, knocked down its spire and threatened to bring the rest of the medieval monument down, too.

The government agency overseeing the reconstruction announced in a statement Saturday that the works to secure the structure — which began the day after the April 15, 2019 fire — are at last complete.


U.S. Catholics raise $465,000 for Notre Dame

The donation
Photo: Andrew Biraj

The donation was made on September 16th during a Mass celebrated by Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory in the National Shrine’s Crypt Church in the USA capital, Washington, D.C.

Noting that Notre Dame in Paris “has welcomed countless millions of people for centuries – some have actually been saints while others were great sinners,” Cardinal Gregory said, “may our gift assist the people of Paris in restoring a place of prayer and beauty for those who visit that world-famous shrine in the centuries that will follow.”


A truss constructed entirely with 12th-century techniques – on spec


“I started getting calls as soon as the fire was put out,” said Rick Brown, standing on the lawn at Catholic University the other day. Brown and his wife, Laura, are the co-founders of Handshouse Studio in the USA, an educational non profit organisation that replicates large historical objects using the precise techniques with which they were built.

In 2011, he led a trip to Poland to rebuild by hand the Gwoździec synagogue, raised in the 17th century and then razed by the Nazis. This time, the calls were about a much bigger house of worship: the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.