It’s been four years since a fire ripped through Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. Reconstruction efforts on the 12th-century monument are well underway, with plans to reopen to visitors and churchgoers alike next year, French officials told the Associated Press.
How long will it take to rebuild Notre-Dame?
The Gothic church remains closed to the public as reconstruction continues, but French officials said Notre-Dame will be ready to reopen to the public in December 2024.
“My job is to be ready to open this cathedral in 2024. And we will do it,” General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general leading the restoration project, told the Associated Press in March 2023. “We are fighting every day for that and we are on a good path.”
In the days following the fire, French President Emmanuel Macron set a five-year restoration deadline, in time for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. In 2019, experts familiar with medieval restoration work said it could take about 15 to 20 years to rebuild the roof, spire, and parts of stone vaulting that fell through to the main sanctuary. Thankfully, the current deadline is closer to Macron’s vision.
Although the cathedral plans to reopen for both church services and tourist visits in December 2024, the full restoration won’t be complete until 2025, Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak told the AP.
How is the restoration work on Notre-Dame progressing?
While the stained-glass rose windows, rectangular towers, and priceless Christian relics all survived the blaze, extensive reconstruction work is necessary before the cathedral can reopen.
By November 2020, workers successfully removed all the scaffolding that had been in place around the spire for an earlier renovation project when the fire broke out in 2019. In September 2021, the government agency overseeing the reconstruction of Notre-Dame announced that the temporary structures built to secure the cathedral’s iconic towers, vaults, and walls were complete. Reconstruction efforts began in earnest in December 2021, including work on the organ restoration and other parts of the cathedral.
In February 2023, scaffolding went up to begin the process of reinstalling the replica of architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century spire that collapsed in the fire with original materials including oak trees cut from French forests. The spire will also again be built with lead, which raised concerns from both health and environmental groups after the 2019 fire released potentially toxic lead particles into the neighborhood surrounding the cathedral, prompting a lengthy cleanup effort. The spire is slated to be completed by the end of 2023, according to the Agence France-Presse.
A look inside the restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral
To get an idea of the work that needs to be done on Notre-Dame, take a look at these scenes from the cathedral before and immediately after the 2019 fire, as well as a few reconstruction updates from the past few years.
Before the fire (September 2018)
After the fire (April 2019)
Reconstruction progress (November 2021)
Reconstruction progress (March 2023)
Before the fire (October 2017)
After the fire (April 2019)
Reconstruction progess (June 2021)
Notre-Dame’s controversial restoration plans
At the end of 2021, France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission approved plans for Notre-Dame’s interior renovations, according to Agence France-Presse. Those proposed changes include modern lighting effects like projecting Bible quotes onto the walls, as well as possibly adding art installations to the 19th-century confessionals from street artists like Ernest Pignon-Ernest and modern artists including Louise Bourgeois.
While Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, Notre-Dame’s rector, told the New York Times that these proposed changes would allow for an “easier and more pleasant visit” to the cathedral, opponents say the plans would undermine the religious landmark.
About 100 public figures signed an opinion piece titled “Notre-Dame in Paris: What the Fire Spared, the Diocese Wants to Destroy” in the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro in December 2021. Early pushback in the British press compared the renovations to turning Notre-Dame into a “woke Disneyland” when the plans were first announced in November 2021.
This is not the first time critics have pushed back against modernizing the 850-year-old cathedral. Though Macron initially pushed for a contemporary glass spire, a rooftop garden, and other modern touches to be added to the top of the cathedral, he came around and approved plans to rebuild Notre-Dame in a historically accurate manner in July 2020, according to a statement from the state agency overseeing the project, the Associated Press reported.
In 2023, there are about 1,000 people working on Notre-Dame’s restoration in Paris and throughout France. In order to rebuild with similar materials and techniques used when the rest of Notre-Dame was built in the 12th century, skilled artisans including quarrymen, carpenters, mortar makers, and master stonecutters have needed to be hired.
A behind-the-scenes look at the restoration process
Even though visitors can’t go into the cathedral in 2023, two new Notre-Dame exhibits offer an inside look at this massive construction project.
Located in a new cultural venue underneath the cathedral in a former parking garage, Notre-Dame de Paris: In the Heart of the Restoration will be on display through December 2024. This exhibit provides an overview of the restoration project and the trades involved, alongside damaged artifacts pulled from the fire.
Over at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine at the Trocadéro, Notre-Dame de Paris: From Builders to Restorers (through April 29, 2024) is displaying the statues of the apostles and the evangelists that had been removed from the cathedral’s spire for restoration work four days prior to the fire.
How much will it cost to restore Notre-Dame?
The consolidation phase—between 2019 and 2021—cost 165 million euros (US$197 million). That money went toward the stabilization of the vaults inside the cathedral, as well as removing the scaffolding in place at the time of the fire.
French authorities have yet to finalize the budget for the total cost of the renovation work on Notre-Dame, but a major European insurer is comparing the project to the $8 billion worth of renovations currently being done on the British Parliament buildings in London.
“The scaffolding costs are going to be enormous, actually securing the building is going to be enormous. The cost of renovating the [British] Parliament is a similar sort of number,” Robert Read, the head of art and private client at Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox, told Reuters soon after the fire.
Immediately after the fire, around $1 billion in donations poured in from individual contributors, as well as companies like Apple and Disney. The wealthy French families behind LVMH and Kering pledged €200 million (US$226 million) and €100 million (US$113 million), respectively. LVMH owns several major French fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, while Kering owns other luxury brands, such as Saint Laurent and Gucci.
Under France’s secular laws, the government owns Notre-Dame. However, the Ministry of Culture has only given €2 million (US$2.26 million) a year for repairs in the past.
Mary Winston Nicklin and the Associated Press contributed reporting to this article. It originally appeared online in April 2019; it was updated most recently on May 3, 2023, to include current information.