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.
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), an amount that already exceeds the funds collected from private firms and 338,000 citizens who have donated to the rebuilding effort.
In total, 833 million euros (around 997 million dollars) were raised for the restoration of Notre Dame, mostly from private donors and businesses.
“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.”
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.