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World News

Resurrection of Notre-Dame continues in Paris as huge oaks raised into place

by Ros Mayfield

The first timber truss has been lifted into place at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The iconic building is being lovingly restored after it was partially destroyed by fire in 2019.

Eight oak trees were selected to be used in the reconstruction of the roof, cut from the Berce forest in Jupilles, western France. The huge trusses, measuring around 15 metres long and 10 metres high, were delivered to the city by barge and hoisted into place by a massive crane on Tuesday.

Notre-Dame ('Our Lady' in French) is one of France's most recognisable landmarks. Situated in the heart of the capital, Paris, it dominates a small island in the middle of the River Seine and holds a special place in the hearts of many tourists as well as city dwellers.  All looked on in horror on 15th April 2019 as the centre of the building was completely enveloped by a ferocious blaze. The famous spire fell victim to the flames, and the nave and transept roofs and the wooden roof structure were destroyed, but there was never a question in French people's minds that the magnificent structure would not be rebuilt in its original form.

Building work on the original cathedral began in the 12th century and took an incredible 300 years to complete. Carpenters working on the restoration of the fire-ravaged roof have been using the same tools and techniques as the original medieval workmen to build the new timber frame, working with hand-axes to fashion the giant oak beams.

With trusses weighing 7 to 7.5 tonnes, the delicate operation to lift them into position drew crowds along a bridge over the Seine River and on its banks. "It's a very useful means to build in security, without disturbing Paris," said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the group in charge of conserving and restoring Notre-Dame.

The hundred or so trusses needed to rebuild the great roof, made from 1,200 oak trees, will begin to take their place on the monument from the end of August 2023 while the cathedral is scheduled to reopen to the public in December 2024.

"I think it’s a magical moment for many Parisians this morning," said Transport Minister Clement Beaune, noting that the Seine will be at the centre of Paris Olympics events in 2024.

Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed by French President Emmanuel Macron to oversee Notre Dame’s reconstruction, said even expected heavy traffic during summer Games won't stop work on this world-renowned cathedral.

A statement said that as work advances, Notre-Dame’s silhouette should emerge from scaffolding currently obscuring it from view.

The newly restored Cathedral will have brand-new liturgical furnishings in dark-brown bronze as well as 1,500 openwork design chairs made of solid oak. 

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