Notre Dame Rector: 50% Chance It Can Be Saved

'The building is still very fragile,' in danger of scaffolding collapsing onto vaults
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2019 8:17 AM CST
Notre Dame Rector: 50% Chance It Can Be Saved
Believers attend Christmas mass in Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois church, in Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. Notre Dame Cathedral is unable to host Christmas services for the first time since the French Revolution, because the Paris landmark was too deeply damaged by this year's fire.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says the Paris landmark is still so fragile that there's a “50% chance” it might not be saved, because scaffolding installed before the April fire is threatening the Gothic monument's vaults. Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said restoration work isn't likely to begin until 2021—and described his "heartache" that Notre Dame couldn't hold Christmas services this year, for the first time since the French Revolution. "It is not out of danger," he told the AP. "It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding. Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so ... the building is still very fragile." The 12th-century cathedral was under renovation at the time of the April fire, which destroyed its roof and collapsed its spire. With no roof to keep the massive stone structure stable, the cathedral's surviving vaults are crucial to keeping it standing, but they are vulnerable.

Some 50,000 tubes of scaffolding crisscrossed the back of the edifice at the time of the fire, and some were damaged. Removing them without causing further problems is one of the toughest parts of the cleanup effort. “We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral,” Chauvet said. “Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced." Chauvet estimated it would take another three years to make it safe enough for people, but that the full restoration will take longer. President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants it rebuilt by 2024, when Paris hosts the Olympics, but experts have questioned whether that time frame is realistic. But its congregation, clergy, and choir are keeping its spirit alive, and decamped Christmas celebrations to the Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois Church.

(More Notre Dame Cathedral stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.