Reinforcing the vaults of Notre Dame


At the end of January 2021, fifty-two wooden support vaults left the Le Bras workshop for Paris, for the purpose of reinforcing each of the five stone vaults of the cathedral that were weakened or damaged, or sometimes gutted by the collapse of the spire during the fire of April 15th, 2019.

Assembly at the cathedral will begin in February 2021, thirty meters above the void: the supports will have been previously mounted under the vaults using hydraulic jacks.

If you’re doing a concert on New Year’s eve…


Why not do it in a virtual Notre Dame?

On New Year’s Eve, electronic veteran Jean-Michel Jarre returned for a highly unique digital concert. Titled “Welcome To The Other Side,” the performance was filmed in a French studio but broadcast live in virtual reality (VR) inside a digital rendering of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. Viewers could either tune in using VR or watch the set as a video on any device.

Of the medium, Jarre said,

“Virtual reality is to the performing arts today what cinema was to the theatre in its early days, a kind of curiosity. I believe that VR will become tomorrow, a mode of expression in its own right.”
Watch it here now.

Notre Dame restoration workers uncover medieval colours

Inside Notre Dame

The need to build scaffolds up to 40 metres high for the 200 workers to repair the high walls and soaring vaults has given art restorers the opportunity to study up close the side chapel ceilings they had no access to before.

They are finding traces of rich polychromatic decorations under the dark levels that have built up over centuries of candle smoke and air pollution. Medieval cathedrals were often covered inside and out with paint that either wore off or was hidden as unfashionable in later eras.

“We’ve found blues, reds, ochres … lilies with some gilding and others whose traces are preserved in negative”, chief heritage curator Jonathan Truillet told the daily La Croix.

Jingle Bells in hard hats

Notre Dame choir in hard hats
Notre Dame hosts Christmas choir in hard hats

In a concession to the fact that the cathedral is still being rebuilt after the massive fire in April 2019, the choristers wore construction hard hats and boiler suits, and there was no audience.

The concert was recorded at the cathedral earlier this month, and was broadcast on French television just before midnight on Thursday (December 24th).

Lasers may help Notre Dame to its former glory

Exterior Notre Dame May 2020
Photo: Thibault Camus
People walk on the forecourt of Notre Dame’s Cathedral, on May 31st, 2020.

French officials are considering cleaning the inside surfaces of the cathedral with one of the newest technologies in art restoration: lasers. Chicago-based art restoration expert Bartosz Dajnowski invented the technique, which his company, GC Laser Systems, tested inside Notre Dame last month.

The technique uses light to weed out contamination without chemicals or mechanical abrasion, he says. Dajnowski’s lasers have cleaned the facade of the U.S. Supreme Court building and the lions in front of the New York Public Library.

The Notre Dame organ has been removed for restoration

Notre Dame organ
Photo: Patrick Zachmann

After the big April 2019 fire at Notre Dame the organ was damaged but repairable. A nearly 30-metre-high scaffolding was erected in the summer to enable the organ’s removal.

The keyboard console was the first element to be lifted out in early August, which freed up space so that a work surface could be installed in front of the instrument. Over the past four months, thousands of metal and wooden pipes and box springs have been taken away in four waterproof containers and transported to a warehouse in the Parisian region. All that remains in the cathedral is the sideboard, some bellows and several pipes that are too fragile or difficult to remove and will therefore be cleaned on site.

The symphonic organ has been the voice of Notre Dame since 1733. Its 8,000 pipes divided into 115 stops make it France’s largest instrument in terms of register.

Things you may not know about the Notre Dame restoration

Notre Dame exterior
Photo: Matt Munro

In order to get the Notre Dame restoration elements correct,  no effort has been spared in locating the correct materials. In order to stabilize and restore the vault, experts must identify limestone with identical properties as the centuries-old blocks already intricately locked in place.

Geologist Lise Leroux studied the stone to find its origin, leading her to quarries beneath Paris, now commonly known as the Catacombs, where she has been able to match micro-fossils found there with the samples from the vaulting stones in the cathedral.

Notre Dame will celebrate Christmas but with a hired organ

Notre Dame organ
Photo: AP

Christmas will not be cancelled at Notre Dame in Paris this year, but there are some changes.

The choir will sing on Christmas Eve as usual  but with 20 singers, safely distanced, and an organ will be rented from a donor bank.

The conductor will be Henri Chalet, with soloists soprano Julie Fuchs and cellist Gautier Capuçon.

The badly fire-damaged scaffolding has been removed

above Notre Dame

Scaffolding has been successfully removed from the roof of Paris’ Notre Dame more than a year after the historic cathedral caught fire, representing a critical step in its lengthy and arduous restoration process. On Tuesday, the cathedral celebrated, posting a photo taken from above the iconic building.

BBC programme Storyville looks back on the fire

The spire of the Notre Dame collapsing
Photo: Thierry Mallet - AP
The spire of the Notre Dame collapsing on April 15, 2019

On Monday the 16th of November the BBC programme Storyville took a look back at the raging fire of Notre Dame on the 15th of April 2019.

Over its 90-minute course, this minute-by-minute Storyville documentary brings us a parade of tears, prayers, peril, gargoyles, French President Macron, stern faces lit by flickering flames, an emotional Monsignor, desperate decisions, giant bells, the stalwart mayor of Paris, and lots of battle metaphors. A film director would make much of the scene where a firefighter eventually emerges clutching the precious Crown. Oh no! That’s the replica!