The latest in a series of controversies that have surrounded the renovation of Notre-Dame unfolded on Thursday, when a commission of heritage experts gave the green light to a revamp of the interior of the fire-stricken cathedral.
France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission approved proposals by the diocese of Paris to bring a more modern look to Notre-Dame before its planned reopening in 2024, including the installation of contemporary artworks and new lighting effects. Opponents say the changes will debase the 850-year-old cathedral and disturb the harmony of its Gothic design.
The heritage commission also authorized cathedral administrators to rearrange the tabernacle and other items to create more room for visitors. Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, Notre-Dame’s rector, said the proposals would allow for an easier and more pleasant visit to the religious monument and create “a dialogue” between Notre-Dame’s medieval architecture and new, more modern features.
Artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries could be placed next to old master paintings from the cathedral’s collection, such as Mathieu Le Nain’s “Nativity of the Virgin Mary,” Chauvet said.
He added that the diocese was also considering light projections on the walls of some chapels that would display short text excerpts from the Bible.
Most of the confessionals would be moved to the first floor in the rearrangement of the cathedral’s 2,000 or so furniture items, Chauvet said, and Notre-Dame’s more than 12 million annual visitors would now enter through the central portal instead of via a side door.
“The idea is that the faithful, or visitors, are first struck by the grandeur, by the beauty of Notre-Dame,” Chauvet said.
Yet the addition of modern touches threatens to disfigure the cathedral, according to dozens of cultural figures and intellectuals who have stood up against the proposals.