An Easter-night report on CBS offered a glimpse at this extraordinary undertaking:
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is a treasure. First built in the 13th century, it came to be known and celebrated around the world as a prime example of medieval architecture and engineering. In France, it is sometimes called “the people’s palace,” because it has been the site of not just worship, but also national consolation and reconciliation for centuries.
As retired French army General Jean-Louis Georgelin put it to 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker: “The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is, in some way, the heart of France. For the Catholic, of course, for the Christian, but for everybody. … All the great events of France, in some way or another, took place here in the cathedral.”
Whenon April 15, 2019, it was a tragedy and a trauma shared by people all over the world. Because images of the fire were broadcast live to televisions and smartphones everywhere, it was one of those 21st century moments that the world experienced in real time.
“Everybody stopped,” Georgelin said, describing what went on in his home country. “And a lot of people in France cried because they feel that something very deep in the soul of France and the spirit of France was about to collapse.”
The cathedral’s iconic 200-foot-tall wooden spire did collapse; that may be the moment people remember most from that night. Journalist and author Agnes Poirier, who lives just across the River Seine from Notre Dame, recalls standing with her neighbors and watching it fall.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged just after the fire that Notre Dame would be repaired and reopened within five years. He appointed Georgelin to oversee the huge restoration project.
The other crucial figure in the project is Philippe Villeneuve, who has been the chief architect in charge of the cathedral for a decade. He is so dedicated to Notre Dame that he has its famous spire tattooed on his arm.
“They say that I have Notre Dame in my skin,” he said in French. “It’s very practical, because when I have to explain how the spire fell, it’s always better to show that from here to there it tipped over, and from there to there it fell.”
Check out the full report below.