Nothing can be changed from the outside. But inside Notre-Dame de Paris it’s starting to look very different than it did over the past century and a half. France’s National Commission for Heritage and Architecture on Thursday approved the renovation of the cathedral’s interior, which was largely destroyed by fire in April 2019.
Although the interior of the cathedral has largely survived, the Archdiocese of Paris did not want to miss the opportunity to renovate. After a planned reopening in 2024, visitors will be able to admire seasonal lighting and video displays on the walls from the removable light benches.
Not everyone is happy with the plans, which were revealed by Britain’s Morning Post late last month under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Notre Dame décor faces an awakened Disney renovation”. Daily Telegraph. Conservatives chimed in on social media, accusing the church that modernization would “bow to the altar of political correctness”. This was a reminder of earlier concerns that the church’s roof would become a swimming pool or car park.
A group of one hundred French celebrities published an opinion piece this week in le Figaro, under the title “What the fire saved, the diocese wants to destroy.” Philosopher Alain Finkelkraut and Stephane Byrne, a heritage advisor to President Emmanuel Macron, among others, write that “modern media” such as video presentations “are already hopeless”. They also express their support for Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the 19th-century architect who restored the 12th-century building. According to notable people, the design of Viollet-le-Duc was “reduced to nothing” by the Archdiocese.
The diocese defends itself, among other things, by referring to the crowds: wheelchairs will be useful to provide space for twelve million tourists a year. Reverend Jill Darwin, who is in charge of the renovation, says he wants to impart Christian knowledge to visitors by displaying Bible stories on the walls.
Drouin defends the fact that modern art will be held in the side chapels – including the name of the German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer – with reference to recent history. In late 1994, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger inaugurated a large golden cross by French sculptor Marc Couturier.
Ironically, the architect Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) is nowadays seen as someone who regularly mocks the history of buildings. For example, when he restored Notre Dame in the mid-19th century, he preferred the then refined Gothic style over the building’s original condition. Notre Dame barely survived the French Revolution half a century ago. In this way, the storm will also pass over Alouque.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on December 10, 2021
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of December 10, 2021
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.