France fells centuries-old oaks to rebuild the iconic spire.
In April 2019, a fire consumed the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral’s lead roof and destroyed its beautiful spire. It took until December of 2020 to stabilize the remains of the building for restoration to begin.
As of Holy Week 2021, the famous cathedral’s rector indicates that it may take two more decades of work to restore the building fully. This is a substantially longer time frame than the original goal set by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Both the building and its esplanade might remain under renovation for another “15 or 20 years,” Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press on Friday.
…Shortly after the fire, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the burned-out cathedral, a symbol of national pride, in just a few years.
“We will rebuild Notre-Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years. We can do it,” Macron said at the time.
“It is up to us to convert this disaster into an opportunity to come together, having deeply reflected on what we have been and what we have to be and become better than we are. It is up to us to find the thread of our national project,” he added.
The bold plan had in mind a 2024 deadline, when Paris is set to host the Summer Olympics. However, French officials quickly reconsidered Macron’s statement, acknowledging that five years was unrealistic for such a massive task.
In early March, four French oaks standing for hundreds of years in a once-royal forest now have a sacred destiny were felled to use for the replacement spire.
Some 1,000 oaks in more than 200 French forests, both private and public, were chosen to make the frame of the cathedral transept and spire — destined to be admired on the Paris skyline for potentially hundreds of years.
“Given the place occupied by the cathedral in the hearts of the French, in the history of France and the world … we are happy (that) the entire industry — from foresters to sawyers — is mobilized to meet this challenge,” said Michel Druilhe, President of France Bois Foret, a national interprofessional forestry network.
Reconstruction of a 12th-century cathedral such as Notre Dame in wood is a daunting prospect. The inside was such a lattice of beams and supports that it was affectionately called the “forest.” Calls to reinforce it with fireproof concrete were dismissed, even after such material helped limit the fallout from a blaze in the Gothic Nantes Cathedral last year.
Understandably, the dimensions required for Notre Dame’s anointed timbers are clinically precise: Many trunks have to measure over 1 meter (more than 3 feet) wide and 18 meters (60 feet) long. Eight of the trees — destined for the most monumental part of the spire — were found in the Forest of Berce that once belonged to the Kings of France.
On Tuesday, chainsaw-wielding tree surgeons in Berce scaled the special oaks to fell them in a race against the clock. All 1,000 must be “harvested” all around the country by the end of March, otherwise harmful tree sap and moisture could enter the wood fibers.
The timber must dry out for at least 18 months before the wood is used for the reconstruction.
Despite the reconstruction, Notre Dame was the site of Holy Thursday services this week.
The ceremony involved a foot-washing ritual that symbolizes Jesus’ willingness to serve. Six worshipers were chosen for the foot washing, a diverse group including medical staff, the needy and some people who are set to be baptized this Easter.
Paris Bishop Michel Aupetit led the rite, accompanied by Notre-Dame’s rector Patrick Chauvet.
Attendance at the service was sharply restricted due to the cathedral’s reconstruction and the pandemic.
Here’s hoping the reconstruction efforts are blessed with great timber and no more pandemics.DONATE
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