Notre Dame Cathedral is set to reopen to worshippers and visitors alike in December 2024, it has been confirmed.
The 12th century Catholic church in Paris sustained major damage after its roof caught fire in April 2019, burning for around 15 hours.
Reconstruction has been ongoing since 2022, after more than two years of work to stabilise the historic building.
The cathedral’s iconic spire, which collapsed in the blaze, will gradually begin to reappear above the monument later this year in a powerful symbol of its revival, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who is in charge of the major project, confirmed.
“The return of the spire in Paris’ sky will, in my opinion, be the symbol that we are winning the battle of Notre Dame,” he told the Associated Press.
Designed by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the 93-metre high spire was added in the 19th century.
In the days following the fire, French President Emmanuel Macron set a five-year restoration deadline that would see the medieval building reconstructed and reopened in time for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
However, in 2019, experts in medieval restoration warned that it could take between 15 to 20 years to rebuild the roof, spire and stone vaulting that fell into the cathedral’s main sanctuary.
“My job is to be ready to open this cathedral in 2024. And we will do it,” said General Georgelin.“We are fighting every day for that and we are on a good path.”
After the fire, some proposals for restoration involved modernising the cathedral, but French officials rejected this approach and insisted on preserving the building’s “historic, artistic and architectural interest”.
Around 1,000 people are working each day to rebuild Notre Dame, General Georgelin added.
“The biggest challenge is to comply precisely every day to the planning we have done,” he said. “We have a lot of different works to achieve: the framework, the painting, the stones, the vault, the organ, the stained glass and so on.”
Philippe Jost, managing director of the government agency overseeing the reconstruction, noted that the result “will be faithful to the original architecture” both because the team is “sticking to the vanished shapes of the cathedral” and because they are “sticking to the materials and construction methods” of medieval times.
While the cathedral plans to reopen for both church services and tourist visits in December 2024, the full restoration will not be complete until 2025, Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak said.
A new exhibition called “Notre-Dame de Paris: At the heart of the construction site” will open to visitors on Tuesday (7 March) in an underground facility in front of the site.
Free to enter, it will offer a glimpse of the ongoing operations and restoration of the cathedral and show the expertise and skills of the workers involved.
It will also include some remains from the fire and works of art from the cathedral.