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SPECIAL REPORT

A rare look at restoration of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral

A view of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral on October 15, 2019. Work continues to stabilise its structure eight months after a fire caused significant damage.
A view of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral on October 15, 2019. Work continues to stabilise its structure eight months after a fire caused significant damage. Charles Platiau/REUTERS

After a wildfire on April 15 that consumed its roof and spire, Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral is undergoing massive repair work. The site remains closed to the public but rare access inside the cathedral has been granted to see how things are coming along, and to get a sense of the task that still lies ahead.

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Once inside Notre-Dame, there is a quiet stillness. The floor of the nave has been cleared except for some piles of gravel. It rains inside the church.

One has to look up to understand just how much work has to be done. There are gaping holes in the vaults of the ceiling, twisted piles of burned metal and wood, and at the summit, partially burned scaffolding towers overhead, still in danger of collapsing. The 300-ton structure must be reinforced before it can be taken down slowly, piece by piece, a process expected to take until June.

In front of the cathedral, tents shelter much of the precious debris. Tens of thousands of pieces of stone and some metal that archeologists are in the process of restoring. 

But today the chief architect has a different priority. He's concerned about the vaults in the ceiling: “If we remove the burned wood and the pieces of the framing that burned, and the metal elements that accumulated since April 15th, we don't know what will happen. So today we absolutely cannot say that Notre-Dame has been saved.”

Click on the player above to watch this special report from our sister channel France 2.

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