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'Consensus' that Notre-Dame spire should be rebuilt in original form

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the Gothic spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the Gothic spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. © Benoit Tessier, REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that he agrees the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was destroyed in last year's devastating fire, should be rebuilt exactly as it was.

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France's incoming culture minister said earlier that there was a "large consensus" that the spire of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt as it was before. Roselyne Bachelot told French radio on Thursday that "there was a large consensus in public opinion and among those deciding" the issue for the spire to be rebuilt.

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

Macron had previously spoken in favour of adding a contemporary "touch" to the 13th-century monument. He vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame in less than five years after a major fire on April 15 largely destroyed the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral’s roof and spire.

His pledge prompted concern among architects, conservationists and academics from around the world, who have called for caution in restoring the badly damaged edifice.

Two days after the fire, then prime minister Édouard Philippe sparked controversy by announcing that the government would hold an international architectural contest to redesign the spire, originally designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1859. Philippe also expressed interest in “a new spire adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”.

>> Tradition vs modernity: Debate over future Notre-Dame spire sparks controversy

Since then, some of the world's most famous architects have submitted projects. They include Britain's Norman Foster, who envisions a glass roof and a crystal spire, and Slovakia's Vizum atelier, which replaced the spire with a light beam pointing towards the sky.

But according to a YouGov opinion poll, 54 percent of French people would like the Gothic cathedral to be rebuilt as it was before the April fire, with only 25 percent opting for an “architectural initiative”.

The debate over the monument's future boiled over into a public spat late last year when the French army general charged with overseeing the rebuilding told the cathedral's chief architect to "shut his mouth".

Philippe Villeneuve, the cathedral's architect since 2013, had threatened to resign unless Notre-Dame was rebuilt the way it was.

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