An exhibition highlights the restoration site of Notre-Dame de Paris
On April 15, 2019, a violent fire devastated a large part of the cathedral. The tragedy caused such a shock that donors from all over the world mobilized to finance its restoration. In total, 845 million euros are collected. An extraordinary project is being set up under the responsibility of a dedicated public establishment, which plays the role of project owner. An identical restoration, respecting the original materials, was approved by the National Heritage and Architecture Commission in 2020.
The restoration site of the building is particularly highlighted in this exhibition, and sheds light on the work of the companions and craftsmen in charge of working there. “The exhibition celebrates the builders of today and yesterday“, explains Philippe Jost, deputy director of the public establishment in charge of restructuring, during a press visit. “Passion and know-how are mobilized in this extraordinary project.“Indeed, the transmission of skills is illustrated in photos and videos. Large scale models of archive documents complete this set.
Zoom on the frame
The materials and methods used to give a second life to the building following the fire are exposed. Lead elements from the roof, charred wood from the frame and stones from the transept crossing are among the pieces unveiled behind the museum’s display cases.
The work of rebuilding the framework is symbolized by a few logs, at different stages of squaring, rough-hewn axes and doloires specially designed for the site. “Two thousand oaks are cut in France to make the blend. The last was shot in Orne last week“, says Isabelle Marquette, co-curator of the exhibition. It is the Ateliers Perrault and the Atelier Desmonts who are responsible for restoring the framework. For this, they use tools and techniques from medieval times.
A few meters further, visitors can discover some pipes of the great organ. The latter has a total of 8,000, which must be cleaned by three workshops of organ builders in France. The instrument will be reassembled in 2024.
A large collection of architectural and decorative elements
The impressive collection of works from the building will also appeal to visitors. Monumental sculptures, paintings and stained glass come together in the moldings gallery. “I’architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who won the Notre-Dame restoration competition in the 19th century, breathed a neo-Gothic spirit into the cathedral. In particular, he imported 16 sculptures made of hammered copper sheets, made between 1858 and 1861. A way of giving both hegemony and originality to the monument“, says Isabelle Marquette. As for the stained glass, dirty, they must be cleaned.
The commissioners took care to display models and drawings, in particular that of the spire project. “It was more complicated to bring back, due to their volume, certain elements of the construction site, such as the stones and the frame.“, concedes the commissioner. “We aspire, through this installation, to show how this site, certainly exceptional, represents a very small part of the history of Notre-Dame.”