The cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which has stood since the 14th century on the banks of the Seine in Paris, is soon to be fully restored to its former glory, just in time for the Grand Jubilee.
Some time next year, Parisians and pilgrims will see the full results of a program of general maintenance and restoration which has been under way since 1991.
This is not the first restoration for the great Gothic cathedral. Two hundred years ago, during the Frence Revolution, many of the treasures of Notre Dame were destroyed or plundered. The great bells, known to the world through Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, just barely avoided being melted down, and the cathedral itself was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and then, later, to the cult of the “Supreme Being.” Finally, the church interior was used as a food storage warehouse.
The severe disrepair this occasioned in the cathedral necessitated the restoration program of Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc, which was carried out between 1845 and 1858, and included the addition of a spire and a sacristy. Not long after, during the Commune of 1871, the cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards — indeed, some accounts suggest that a huge mound of chairs was set on fire in the interior of the cathedral. While it is still not entirely clear what exactly happened, Notre Dame survived essentially unscathed.
Much of the structure has been shrouded in canvas and scaffolding in the past 10 years. Cleaning, sandblasting, and the reconstruction of broken masonry have been but a few of the projects undertaken in this time. Within the next year, reports from the diocese suggest, the work of the project will be completed and the cathedral will once more be open to the public eye and restored to its accustomed glory.