More than a year after the fire that caused the collapse of part of the roof of Notre Dame and its spire, the Parisian cathedral reopened its esplanade on Sunday, which is seen as the first step towards its “rebirth”.
That square was closed to the public just after the fire of April 15, 2019 and the Regional Health Agency authorized its reopening this past Friday, after considering that the sanitary conditions in the area were again satisfactory.
The authorities’ efforts have so far been focused on controlling lead contamination caused by the fire, which melted much of the lead plates on the roof and spread them around in the form of polluting particles.
The French Minister of Culture, Franck Riester; the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the city’s archbishop, Michel Aupetit, and general Jean-Louis Georgelin, president of the public body in charge of restoration, today commemorated the reopening.
“It is a kind of rebirth. We must remain cautious, but we can be happy to meet again in this symbolic place. Notre Dame is the soul of Paris. It does not leave anyone indifferent,” Hidalgo told the press.
The immediate perimeter of the cathedral is still surrounded by fences that block the accesses to the works, but the public can once again stroll through this square, which, if the coronavirus pandemic had not broken, should have been accessible since mid-April.
“There has been a pause and now we are back as if nothing had happened. Although it is under construction, it is good to see it again,” Javier, a 42-year-old Spanish painter, told EFE.
The works were halted on March 16 due to health precautions in the face of the pandemic and the activity was resumed on April 27, initially with the conditioning of the place so that the workers could return with all the guarantees.
“This week the installation of the scaffolding will be resumed in order to remove those that were burned. Starting on the 8th, the progress will be more evident from the outside,” said Georgelin today, who maintains the forecast that in January 2021 he can start the restoration itself.
At this time there have only been two Masses, symbolic and with a very reduced attendance: in June, two months after being devastated by the flames and coinciding with their Feast of Dedication, and on April 15, commemorating a year of the fire.
The reopening of the esplanade maintains hope for the authorities that the cathedral will welcome the faithful again in four years: “It is a small step towards 2024. We are progressing little by little,” said the general.
The symbolism of the plaza, as Hidalgo added, is not only religious. “It is the starting point of many roads to the whole of France. It is kilometer zero,” he concluded, as many Parisians returned to occupy that place, until now closed.