Notre-Dame: The Great Work with which Emmanuel Macron wants to Mark History

27 May 2024 / Radouan Kourak

Emmanuel Macron aims to make history with the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris, a project that has become his feat. The devastating fire of April 15, 2019, which ravaged the roof of the cathedral, occurred under his presidency. Since then, Macron has led the restructuring efforts, wishing to make this renaissance his monument, just like his predecessors François Mitterrand with the Louvre pyramid and Jacques Chirac with the Quai Branly museum.

Unlike these former presidents, Emmanuel Macron did not until then have any emblematic architectural achievement to his credit. The successful restoration of the Château de Villers-Cotterêts as a city of the French language remains modest in comparison. It is therefore with the reconstruction of Notre-Dame that Macron intends to leave his indelible mark.

Tensions surrounding the Inauguration Ceremony

The very day of the fire, Emmanuel Macron went to the site, promising to rebuild the destroyed parts within five years, a deadline that many experts considered unrealistic. Under the energetic and rigorous leadership of General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who died in August 2023, the site respected this ambitious schedule. The cathedral will officially reopen its doors on December 7, a success that Macron hopes to fully savor, despite tensions with Laurent Ulrich, the Archbishop of Paris.

Disagreements between the state and the clergy focus on the inauguration ceremony. Emmanuel Macron wishes to symbolically hand over the keys of the building to the clergy, but Archbishop Laurent Ulrich refuses, affirming that the 1905 lease was never broken, making this symbolic handover useless. Furthermore, the head of state would like to deliver his speech inside the cathedral, which Ulrich strongly opposes, preferring that the speech be made from the square. The only point of agreement: the choice of the communications agency Publicis to organize the event.

A Restored Symbol: The Cross of Viollet-le-Duc

The cross of Viollet-le-Duc, after a year and a half of work by artisan carpenters, ironworkers and roofers, has found its place above the apse of Notre-Dame. This cross, the only element of the choir roof to have survived the flames, was restored identically using Norman ironwork, marking an important step in the rehabilitation of the cathedral.

Philippe Jost, president of the public establishment Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, sees this restoration as a strengthening of the determination of the teams. Philippe Villeneuve, chief architect of historic monuments, compares the efforts for reconstruction to those necessary to prepare for the future Olympic Games: a quest for perfection.

The laying of the cross was accompanied by a religious ceremony, highlighting the spiritual importance of Our Lady. Monsignor Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, rector-archpriest of the cathedral, recalled that Notre-Dame is above all a place of worship and welcome, and not a simple museum. After the blessing, the cross was carefully hoisted into place by workers, a delicate operation which took place to the applause of spectators.

Towards Reopening

The restoration of the cathedral is nearing completion, with remarkable unity between the different trades. The professionals involved, carpenters, ironworkers and roofers, worked with exemplary precision and coordination to bring this emblematic monument back to life.

Emmanuel Macron hopes that the reopening of Notre-Dame de Paris will become a strong symbol of his presidency, leaving its mark on history, just like the major projects of his predecessors.