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Experts warn: Macron’s vow to rebuild Notre Dame is unrealistic

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notre dame damage
A damaged section of Notre Dame Cathedral.GONZALO FUENTES / Reuters

Cathedrals such as Notre Dame often took more than a century to build in medieval times, a process that sometimes spanned the lives of several monarchs.

So French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge Tuesday to restore fire-devastated Notre Dame within five years was at odds with experts who predicted restoring the jewel of Gothic architecture would likely take much longer.

A host of specialized artisans and skilled workmen will need to be gathered from around France, and likely beyond. These include master stone-cutters, mortar makers, carpenters, roofers, quarrymen and sculptors.

Speaking before Macron’s announcement, Emily Guerry, a professor of medieval history at England’s University of Kent, anticipated restoration work on the 850-year-old icon would take around two decades.

“This will be the largest, most important cultural renovation project in France for some time to come,” she said, adding that the process would be “very delicate.”

Jean-Claude Bellanger, secretary-general of Les Compagnons du Devoir, an organization that provides training in manual trades, told Le Parisian newspaper that the niche nature of the work would require an influx of new talent.

Inside Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire
Inside Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire. Christophe Petit Tesson / Pool via AP

“We need to open some 100 places in our carpentry, stone-cutting and roofing sections,” he said, with at least 300 more skilled tradesmen also needing training.

A decade is necessary to train some of the specialized workers required for such a project, Bellanger added.

Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio that the 800-year-old roof that went up in flames was built with wood from forests that have all but disappeared.

It won’t won’t be rebuilt precisely as it was before because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century,” he told The Associated Press.

Historians and experts in medieval architecture tried to assuage worries around the world about the future of Notre Dame, saying that such disasters were natural in the lifespan of such buildings.

Macron promises to rebuild Notre Dame after catastrophic fire

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