July 24, 2021
The various obstacles to the progress of the reconstruction site of Notre-Dame – unsuitable health protocols, undersized staff of the public establishment responsible for collecting funds – have not discouraged the ardor of the Compagnons du Devoir who should hold the timetable for securing the vaults of the cathedral.
In the nave of the cathedral, huge scaffolding supports a work floor, some thirty-three meters high. It is in this space that artisans are busy supporting the sexpartite vaults of the building, each resting on six pillars.
This “half-timbering” of parts damaged during the fire of April 15, 2019 was launched in March 2021: several semi-circular arches, strictly conforming to the shape of the vaults, and each weighing more than 1.6 tonnes, have already been installed .
“It’s a traditional technique, implemented with modern tools”, specifies Philippe Villeneuve, chief architect of historical monuments in charge of Notre-Dame.
It is moreover the same system which will make it possible to resuscitate the vaults which have collapsed: For these, “the hangers were made from very precise digital surveys of the building made before the fire”, explains Philippe Villeneuve.
And he recalls that the vaults disappeared at the crossing of the transept because of the fall of the spire. Without the spire, built in the late 1850s, “they would have resisted the fire perfectly. Vaults have demonstrated what they were invented for: to prevent cathedrals from collapsing after structural fire.
Built of spruce wood in Jarny (Meurthe-et-Moselle), the half-hangers were inserted into the monument through high window openings from which the stained glass had been removed beforehand.
A securitization “unprecedented in its scale” and which “will be completed as planned this summer”, specified General Jean-Louis Georgelin, president of the public establishment responsible for the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris.
It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to respect the timetable set by the President of the Republic, who intends to reopen the emblematic building of Paris for worship in 2024.