As France’s president vows to reopen Notre Dame Cathedral within five years, a Kamloops art history expert who has studied the gothic basilica in Paris said that timeline is “very optimistic.”
Notre Dame was ravaged by flames after a massive fire broke out this past Monday. The blaze, believed to have been accidental, destroyed most of the cathedral’s roof, but left much of the building’s interior with relatively minor damage.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday an architectural competition to have the cathedral rebuilt in time for the 2024 Olympic Summer Games, which will take place in Paris. Also on Wednesday, French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe said the government will undertake a series of measures to secure financing and accelerate reconstruction work at Notre Dame.
More than $1 billion in U.S. funds has been committed for the reconstruction from worshippers, international business magnates and multinational corporations — including Apple, Disney and Dior.
“It looks like they’re going to have all the money they want,” Thompson Rivers University associate professor of art history Lloyd Bennett told KTW.
“But I think five years is being very optimistic. It’s going to take them a year just to clean out the interior.”
Bennett believes Macron may be trying to allay concerns of French citizens with the hard timeline.
“In some ways, he may be saying that to bring some good news to the French people,” Bennett said. “He’s telling them he’s not going to sit around and wait.”
Speaking at his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed sadness about the blaze.
“I was very said and I feel very close to all of you,” he said.
Construction workers delivered a large crane and planks of wood to the Notre Dame site on Wednesday morning, potentially signalling the start of clean up.
Bennett called Notre Dame a “spectacular” place. He said he has been pleased to see damage at the cathedral is less devastating than initially thought.
“It seems like they saved it, at least so far,” he said. “We don’t know what the water and the fire did to the masonry work. … The problem will be to clean up the interior and decide what they’re going to do for the roof.”
Much of Notre Dame’s famed stained glass is in tact, officials have said, and the cathedral’s facade appears to have suffered only minor smoke damage.
Bennett noted Notre Dame, which was completed in the 13th century, has survived the French Revolution and two world wars, though some changes have been made over the centuries.
“This might be considered just another change for Notre Dame,” he said.
— with files from Canadian Press