'Consensus' on recreating Notre Dame spire: minister

Paris (AFP) –


There is a "large consensus" that the spire of the fire-damaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt to resemble its former self, France's culture minister said Thursday, as a panel prepared to make a definitive decision.

French President Emmanuel Macron has argued for a "contemporary" touch in replacing the 19th-century spire which collapsed into the nave of the church in April last year.

The gothic steeple took a large section of the cathedral's roof with it as a blaze tore through the rafters of the 13th century church.

Newly-minted Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told French radio "there was a large consensus in public opinion and among those deciding" for the 96-metre (315-foot) spire to be rebuilt as it was.

Her comments came hours before a commission that is set to rule on the thorny question was due to meet.

Bachelot said the final decision will be up to Macron, who previously said "an element of modern architecture could be imagined" for the new spire.

Macron has set a five-year target for the reconstruction to be completed, in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

But the works have been plagued by delays due to bad weather, concerns over lead pollution, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic.

- No risk -

On Thursday, four Greenpeace activists climbed a crane used for work on the cathedral and unfurled a giant banner to demand the French government do more on climate change.

The move raised the ire of Bachelot, who denounced potential "harmful consequences" to the "extremely fragile" reconstruction project.

Greenpeace France head Jean-Francois Julliard insisted the activists "did not touch the cathedral" and that their protest posed "no risk".

There are sharp divisions about what to do with the spire which was added in the mid-1800s, replacing a medieval one that was removed in 1786.

Last November, the army general Macron put in charge of the massive reconstructive effort, Jean-Louis Georgelin, had a heated public exchange with the project's chief architect Philippe Villeneuve.

The French National Heritage and Architecture Commission (CNPA) is due to give its verdict later Thursday on how the iconic cathedral should be rebuilt.

Georgelin said last week the delicate task of removing the twisted and molten scaffolding around the cathedral should be finished by the end of September.

The wooden roof of the cathedral caught fire during restoration works, sparking a vast outpouring of emotion -- and donations for its rebuilding -- from around the world.