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The backstory: Notre Dame de Paris, or the Notre Dame Cathedral, is a historic Catholic cathedral in Paris known for its breathtaking gothic design. It’s one of the most-visited sites in Europe, seeing about 12 million people annually. But in April 2019, a devastating fire tore through the cathedral, leaving the world in shock. The fire was believed to be accidental, possibly triggered by an electrical issue during renovation work or a cigarette. It led to the collapse of the spire and extensive damage to the roof. Fortunately, many valuable artifacts and religious relics were rescued from the flames.
In the wake of this catastrophe, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to restore the 860-year-old masterpiece and the goal was to do it in five years. The funds for this reconstruction, which came close to €900 million (US$950 million), were donated from across the world.
More recently: France's national auditor, the Cour des Comptes, has been keeping its eye on the reconstruction process, particularly the money contributed by around 340,000 donors from 150 countries. Initially, there were concerns about transparency and spending control, but it’s made strides in addressing these issues.
There were some delays to the reconstruction because of an archaeological dig inside the cathedral and the process of clearing away lead residue from the fire. On top of that, the project director passed away after a hiking accident. There was also backlash over Macron’s idea to rebuild the spire with a contemporary design. It was enough to make him retreat, and the country decided on a recreation of the 1859 version by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, which replaced the original gothic one.
The development: Since the fire, a lot of progress has been made in restoring Notre Dame de Paris. Now, the project, led by the organization Rebâtir Notre Dame de Paris, aims to finish by December 8, 2024, just missing President Macron's goal for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The inside will be pretty much done by this date, but there will still be scaffolding on the exterior, and renovations are expected to continue into 2028.
“We’re now feeling confident we can deliver on time,” said Philippe Jost, the new director of the organization Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris overseeing the project. “But we know things will go wrong. It’s a daily struggle.”
“If certain failings – which may explain the scale of the fire – have been brought to light, the investigations carried out to this date have not been able to determine the causes of the fire,” said Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz in 2019.
"The nation loses one of its great soldiers. France, one of its great servants. And Notre Dame, the architect of its revival," said President Emmanuel Macron on X (formally known as Twitter) back in August, regarding the passing of General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who was the project director of the reconstruction of Notre Dame de Paris.