By Claudia Colliva, CNN
As tourists and Parisians gathered outside the UNESCO-listed cathedral to admire the return of one of its most emblematic features — for now, still encased in scaffolding — the Notre Dame worksite remained in full swing. Nearly 500 craftspeople are busy with rebuilding efforts, working to ensure the Parisian landmark is ready for its grand reopening to the public less than a year from now.
“It’s fascinating to see how something of such historical value is being restored,” said Stephan Book, a tourist visiting Paris from Sweden with his daughter and 80-year-old father. “And the ambition to do it all in five years,” he added, “It’s like when Kennedy said (humans) were going to the moon.”
On a recent visit to the construction site, President Emmanuel Macron promised works were “on schedule” for Notre Dame to open to the public on December 8, 2024, five years and seven months after the fire that destroyed large parts of the 860-year-old building in April 2019.
“By the time the Olympic Games come around (in July), we expect to have un-scaffolded the upper part of the spire and completed most of the roofing, so that Parisians and visitors from all over the world can see just how close the cathedral is to reopening,” Philippe Jost of Rebuilding Notre Dame de Paris (the public body responsible for the conservation and restoration of the cathedral), told the French parliament on December 13.
Already, those admiring the gothic structure from the outside are excited by the prospect of being able to re-enter the cathedral.
“The first time I came to Paris was 60 years ago, then 40 years ago,” said Stephan’s father, Göran Book, who remembers entering Notre Dame on every one of his previous visits to Paris. “Now I’m 80,” he added. “If I’m still alive next year, I’ll have to come back to see the reopening.”
A monumental effort
According to Rebuilding Notre Dame de Paris, there are nearly 250 companies and art workshops across France tasked with “working on the cathedral’s renaissance.” This includes carpenters, stonemasons, scaffolders, sculptors, gilders, glassmakers and even organ builders, who are restoring the 8,000 pipes and 115 stops of Notre Dame’s great organ, the largest in France.
After the 2019 fire, the first two years of work were devoted to securing the building, completing project studies and awarding tenders. The restoration phase then officially began in September 2021.
In recent months, the most visible advances have been made on the restoration of the framework of the roof, the spire and the large upper galleries.
Alban Dubois, who works as a waiter in Cafe Panis, just across the street from Notre Dame, has been observing the daily progress from the windows of his workplace.