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Notre Dame: This is what it looks like five years after the devastating fire

Notre Dame: This is what it looks like five years after the devastating fire
Much of the new spire with the golden rooster and cross has been visible since the end of March.

In a few months only images will remind us of the devastating fire that destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris five years ago. A large part of the new pointed tower with the golden rooster and the cross has been visible since the end of March, and the huge wooden roof truss has been visible since the beginning of the year. A list of all the people involved in this reconstruction includes almost 2,000 names.

  • From the archive: The Notre Dame fire almost cost the life of a retired HAK professor from Wels
  • How Upper Austrians experienced the Notre-Dames fire

Tragedy of Paris

On April 15, 2019, the first fire alarm sounded at 6:20 p.m., after the service began. The believers had to leave the building, but were allowed to go back because there was no sign of a fire. A few minutes later, at 6:43 p.m., the alarm went off again. Too late. A huge cloud of smoke could already be seen from the outside, rising from the attic above the cathedral.

Within about an hour, the narrow crossing tower collapsed to the frightened looks and screams of hundreds of Parisians gathered on the banks of the Seine – before tearing part of the roof down with it.

Pictures of the fire disaster:

The cause of the fire has not yet been clarified. Initial assumptions were that a smoking ban on the construction site was being ignored. A short circuit is also possible.

The images of the flaming inferno caused horror and consternation around the world. “Notre-Dame of Tears” and “The Tragedy of Paris” were the headlines in French and foreign newspapers. The day after the tragedy, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would rebuild the partially destroyed church within five years. An ambitious promise that few believed at the time.

The Paris landmark owes the fact that Notre Dame was not completely destroyed by flames to around 650 firefighters. Since then, hundreds of craftsmen and workers have been busy repairing it – so that the building will soon be completely restored.

  • OÖN editor Valerie Hader visited the construction site in August 2023

For the Olympics in new splendor

The dismantling of the huge scaffolding, some of which recently rose 90 meters into the Parisian sky, should be sufficiently advanced for the opening of the games, explained Philippe Jost, the head of the public institution responsible for the reconstruction of the cathedral. Then the tower should be clearly visible again.

The facades of the north and south transepts as well as the roof structure should also be visible until the sporting event starts. The cathedral will have completely regained its external appearance by the time of the games, it was said from the Élysée Palace.

Current pictures of the construction work:

Part of the opening

The Gothic masterpiece will be part of the celebrations at the opening. According to Thomas Jolly, artificial director of the Olympic ceremonies, it will play a role in the staging of the show. Notre-Dame and the new tower will be given a special homage, as the theater director and actor told the France Inter radio station.

For the first time, the opening ceremony will not take place in a stadium, but in the middle of the city on the Seine. The six-kilometer-long boat parade passes landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame. At the last Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, a religious opening ceremony was held in the cathedral.

Architectural masterpiece

The crossing tower, which culminates more than 90 meters above the ground, is an iconic feature of the cathedral. The original was built in 1250 and was a bell tower. The tower was dismantled during the French Revolution (1789-1799). Over 70 years later it was rebuilt as an architectural masterpiece of the 19th century.

  • Also read: Why St. Mary’s Cathedral is a model for Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

The tower, whose purpose was purely decorative, was built on an octagonal base resting on the four columns of the transept – in 18 months. On April 15, 2019, the 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead collapsed in just one hour.

Rooster rescued from rubble

As the highest point of the monument, the peak tower has, in addition to its aesthetic and architectural quality, also a strong religious significance. At the top rose a rooster containing three relics: several thorns of the Holy Crown of Thorns, a relic of Saint Dionysius and one of Saint Genoveva.

The rooster was rescued from the rubble hours after the fire. It will be on display in the future Notre Dame Museum, along with the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ, a holy nail and a splinter of the Holy Cross.

In Christianity, the rooster symbolizes the return of light after night. That’s why you can see a rooster sitting on many church towers. The remains of Saint Dionysius, first bishop of Paris and martyr, and Saint Genoveva, patron saint of Paris, are said to provide protection to France’s capital and its residents. Since mid-December, a new gold-plated copper tap has been rising into the city sky.

  • The OÖN reported: New golden rooster placed on the spire of Notre-Dame

1000 oak trees for reconstruction

To rebuild the tower, 1,000 oak trees between 100 and 200 years old were felled. No fewer trunks were necessary for the framework of the vaults of the nave and the choir, which were restored according to the medieval model. The new beams were worked by hand with an ax in record time, just like in the time of the first builders, to whom the virtual reality show “Éternelle Notre-Dame” (The Eternal Notre-Dame) leads under the forecourt of the cathedral. France is the country of builders, said the French head of state when he announced just one day after the fire that the church would be rebuilt within five years.

  • 922 million euros in donations for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame

Since the foundation stone was laid in 1163, the cathedral has changed its face over the centuries: it has been expanded, looted, devastated and renovated. One of the most significant restorations should have been the maintenance and modernization work that began in July 2018. But almost nine months later, the previously unimaginable happened.

The fire on April 15, 2019 – a chronology

  • 6:18 p.m.: A first alarm is triggered on the cathedral security computer screen. The security guard, who has only been on the job for a few days, does not know that the zone information is very vague and comes to the conclusion that it is a false alarm.
  • 6:48 p.m.: The first calls to the fire department are received. The main roof structure, consisting of 1,300 oak beams, is in flames.
  • Shortly before 7 p.m.: arrival of the fire brigade; However, it is already too late to save the roof.
  • 7:57 p.m.: The 750 ton crossing tower collapses. The pressure wave pushes open all the doors in the cathedral, which weigh several tons.
  • 8:42 p.m.: Valuable relics and works of art are saved and transported to the vault of the Paris City Hall.
  • 21 clock: Fire also in the north tower, caused by the 800 degree hot smoke gases and the emerging southerly wind. If the 16.6 ton bells fall to the ground, the entire tower could be destroyed.
  • 23 o’clock: The fire in the North Tower is under control thanks to a 50-man elite response team specializing in dangerous operations that risked their lives to save the North Tower.
  • 11.30 p.m.: French President Emmanuel Macron appears in front of the TV cameras and explains that the facade and both towers could be saved.

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