A year and a half after the fire: difficult rescue of Notre-Dame

Six months ago, the fire of Notre Dame shocked the world. The reconstruction shows more and more problems – and the cathedral is break down until today,

In the heart of Paris is probably one of the most famous construction sites in the world. Behind the gates and fences, we work hard at Notre Dame. When the cathedral burned on April 15, the main concern was: does it collapse – is it lost forever? This was prevented first.

Soon, there were great promises: reconstruction in five years. It was about a green roof or a new round of laser beams. A year and a half later, such thoughts could hardly be further away. Reconstruction and modern games are impossible for the moment – the building is still in danger of collapsing.

Tons of lead pollute the environment

"First and foremost, you had to do the most important thing: remove it," says Barbara Schock-Werner. The former master builder of Cologne Cathedral is the coordinator of the German aid to the reconstruction of Our Lady. "And then gradually the problems came." One of the biggest problems at the moment is lead. In the roof and tower of the cathedral, the material was blocked by tons. He had melted into the fire and polluted the environment.

In summer, work had to be interrupted because the safety rules for construction workers had not been respected. The associations have criticized the fact that around Notre-Dame, homes, schools and public spaces are polluted. The city provoked elaborate cleaning actions, immense barriers and countless measures. Lead has become a political problem.

Workers with breathing masks to secure the fire: the lead released from the roof construction makes restoration difficult. (Source: imago images)Workers with breathing masks to secure the fire: the lead released from the roof construction makes restoration difficult. (Source: imago images)

But not only in the outer part of Notre Dame, pollution is a huge problem. At first, they were really happy that the great organ survived the fire, says Schock-Werner. The architect was able to visit Notre Dame several times after the fire and is in contact with the French experts. But now it has been discovered that the organ pipes are full of lead. "When you play the organ, the whole mine is blown inside." For better or for worse, you have to disassemble and clean all the organ.

The dirty fire water of the Seine creates problems

In order to reduce the lead load inside the cathedral, it is regularly vacuumed with large vacuum cleaners. This is also problematic: the fire was also extinguished with water from the Seine. And it was not very clean. Now the masonry is dirty, says Schock-Werner. In addition, the whole building is still soggy. Until it is properly dried, years could go by.

The fact is that, for the moment, the backup work is in full swing. "What I hear, there are still stones falling," says the expert. At present, one can not predict the time and cost of construction.

A window of the cathedral: The walls were badly damaged by fire and fire-fighting water. (Source: dpa / Julien Mattia)A window of the cathedral: The walls were badly damaged by fire and fire-fighting water. (Source: Julien Mattia / dpa)

And the expert warns: Up to now, the weather in Paris had been pretty good. But what happens when big autumn storms get ready? "I will not put my hand in the fire so that the next big storm does not cause the collapse of the safe," Schock-Werner said. His conclusion: "Before the summer or the next autumn, reconstruction is out of the question.

The archdiocese also confirms that they are currently in the security phase. This will probably last until next summer, said Vicar General Benoist of Sinety. Does he believe that the cathedral will probably be rebuilt in the next five years? After all, it was the great promise of French President Emmanuel Macron. He gave it to the Frenchman only a few hours after the fire went out. "It depends on what you call reconstruction," said Sinety.

Notre Dame could be open to visitors again in five years

He believes that it is possible that Notre Dame reopens in the next five years. If the work will be finished by then, however? He can not answer that question either – these are two completely different things. "It's definitely complicated."

If you can not use the cathedral, at least the world-famous forecourt, thought the archdiocese. She had announced a prayer room for believers. But because of the lead, the place is currently completely closed. And as long as the authorities will not allow access, there will be no prayer hall there. "We have been waiting for three months," says de Sinety. But until now nothing works, we are always stopped.

After all: there was recently a first sign of life of the cathedral. After the death of former French President Jacques Chirac, the bell of the Parisian monument has sounded again for the first time since the fire. While an enormous convoy was bringing the coffin to the great funeral ceremony of Chirac, it rang. In the shadow of the towers of Notre-Dame, the heart of France was the hardest, Chirac had said.

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