Gift-wrapped in steel:
Notre Dame’s new spire
By Louise Peloquin
On April 15, 2019, the whole world was aghast when a conflagration enveloped Notre Dame de Paris. The day after the destructive fire, French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral and open it to the public five years later. His pledge immediately prompted donors to pour billions into a reconstruction fund.
More than four and a half years have passed and, thanks to the amazing work of thousands of artisans from all over France, Notre Dame is scheduled to open to the public on December 8, 2024. Dick Howe’s April 3rd post gave us an update on the ongoing tasks. A year before reopening, let’s take a look at one piece of the puzzle – the spire.
Eaten by tongues of fire in 2019, the original spire was inaugurated in August 1859. It was designed by Viollet Le Duc, architect of Notre Dame’s badly needed 19th century restoration.
It is interesting to note that the cathedral was set to be demolished due to its advanced state of abandonment. Thanks to Victor Hugo’s novel, ‘Notre Dame de Paris,” published in 1831, the general public persuaded the powers that be to conserve the cathedral. And now, once again, it is resurrecting from the rubble.
With its coat of 260 tons of lead covering 500 tons of wood, Viollet Le Duc’s purely ornamental spire throned over Paris rooftops at 96 meters and was considered an engineering prowess art the time. His was not the cathedral’s first spire however. In 1250, a tower with five bells rose over the transept. It was demounted between 1786 and 1792.
The new spire, identical to Viollet Le Duc’s, is soon to be finished. On December 6th, its new golden cross was set. Today, December 16th, a 66-pound copper rooster was positioned on top to replace the original fowl, warped during its fall but not destroyed when the flames toppled the spire in 2019. The damaged rooster will be part of the Louvre’s exhibit “Le Trésor de Notre Dame”, the cathedral treasures, saved from the flames.
Will Parisians hear a “Cocorico” (French for cock-a-doodle-doo) as they eat their croissants tomorrow morning? Let the forewarned be vigilant to the astounding sounds of the city at dawn. In any case, lovers of Paris now enjoy an unusual holiday gift wrapped in silvery steel scaffolding. Notre Dame’s spire will is set to be freed of its packaging early in the new year.