Notre Dame Fire: Two Years Later, Despite Massive Cost Overruns, Officials Vow ‘the Cathedral Will Open’ by 2024

Two years after the blaze that devastated the beloved cathedral of Paris, the management of the funds dedicated to its reconstruction is being debated as the second phase of the restoration project is due to start by next winter.

Technicians work under a vault of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral ahead of a visit of French President Macron two years after the blaze that collapsed the spire and destroyed much of the roof on April 15, 2021. The actual restoration work has yet to begin as time up until now has been spent on securing the building, and the full restoration works should begin early next year.
Technicians work under a vault of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral ahead of a visit of French President Macron two years after the blaze that collapsed the spire and destroyed much of the roof on April 15, 2021. The actual restoration work has yet to begin as time up until now has been spent on securing the building, and the full restoration works should begin early next year. (photo: Ian Langsdon/Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

More than 24 months after an April 15, 2019, fire engulfed the spire and most of the roof of the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris, the proper restoration work has barely begun.

Exactly two years after the blaze, the preliminary phase dedicated to cleaning and securing the site, which has involved more than 200 different companies, is coming to an end — but it has already cost twice the original budget.

As reported by the daily newspaper Le Figaro April 13, the expenses incurred during this first phase amount to 165 million euros (197 million dollars). The amount spent so far exceeds all the funds collected from 338,000 private citizens, and a part coming from private firms.

In total, 833 million euros (around 997 million dollars) were raised for the restoration of Notre Dame, mostly from private donors and businesses.

In a radio interview given to France Info, which was quoted in the article, the president of the Fondation du Patrimoine (the French Heritage Foundation), Guillaume Poitrinal, called for a greater transparency on the part of the public establishment in charge of the conservation and restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral, and said that he was monitoring the use of the funds collected by his Foundation (around 279 million dollars). A few months ago, he had claimed that the foundations representing the private donors were unjustly left out of the establishment’s board of directors. 

“The object of the collection is the reconstruction of Notre Dame; it is not necessarily what can go with it and be secondary. It’s not about activities,” he said, adding that there was “progress to be made on the part of the public establishment in the way it dialogues with its financial backers, which are the foundations,” since “100% of the funding, including General Georgelin’s salary [the head of the establishment], comes from foundations.” 

But while several observers are wondering if the funds will be sufficient for the completion of the work in view of the additional costs incurred during this preliminary phase, the French Culture Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, struck a reassuring note in her April 14 address to the Senate. She said that the public support (domestic and international) would be sufficient to bring the work to its conclusion, and added that “in 2024, the cathedral will be open.”

This strong will for the work to be completed within three years was further hammered by French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to the construction site to commemorate the second anniversary of the fire, April 15. “The 2024 commitment will be kept,” he said in an interview with Le Parisien. “The five-year deadline will be kept.”

“What is important to me is that the work schedule can be respected, with all due respect for the architects and craftsmen. Everyone is now sure that we will get there in 2024.”

Phase II of the restoration work is expected to start by next winter, but it could begin as early as September.

For the time being, another important step of the process is currently under way: that of the selection of oak trees from across France for the rebuilding of Notre Dame’s wooden roof and spire, which is also called the “Forest.” After a long controversy surrounding the terms for the reconstruction of these two emblematic elements of the monument, President Macron finally announced in July 2020 that they would be rebuilt as they were.

Notre Dame Cathedral before the April 15, 2019, fire

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