Replica clock find sparks hope for Notre-Dame restoration

Paris (AFP) –


An accidental discovery of a 19th-century clock in a dusty church storage room in Paris has sparked hopes that it can be used to replace a timepiece destroyed in the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral.

The ruined clock in Notre-Dame, which measured two metres (6.5 feet) across, was located beneath the roof and spire of the Gothic monument which crashed down in the blaze that stunned France in April.

With original drawings lost and no digital records, photographs of the historic clock were the only clue experts had about how they might rebuild it.

Then French clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot stumbled across an almost identical version while completing an inventory last month at Saint Trinite church in northern Paris, four kilometres (2.5 miles) away from Notre-Dame.

"It's incredible. It's the same," he said. "It's like finding a second copy of a burned book."

The clock, which had been used in Saint Trinite until being replaced by an electric version more than 50 years ago, was found behind a wooden board next to statues and old furniture in a room accessible via a narrow staircase.

"It's almost a miracle," said Olivier Chandez, who is responsible for the upkeep of Notre-Dame's clock. "If we only had the photos, we would have to extrapolate. But with this model, we have all the dimensions".

Even if the clock is the same model, "there are a few differences", Chandez said. "Notre-Dame's clock was slightly more elaborate. It's therefore not possible to simply install the clock there".

There are not yet any concrete plans to include the rebuilding of the clock in Notre-Dame's mammoth refurbishment, which has raised 850 million euros ($967m) so far.

"It's a worry that it (Notre-Dame) will be rebuilt without a clock, yes," Chandez said, although the cost would be "a drop in the ocean" of the final bill.

But lovers of the 850-year-old church are determined that Notre-Dame's clock will tick once more.

"A cathedral without a clock? It's like an aircraft carrier without any planes," Jean-Baptiste Viot said.