Unless there is a major accident or unforeseen event, Notre-Dame de Paris will reopen on December 8, 2024, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as announced last January by Jean-Louis Georgelin, president of the public establishment in charge of conservation and restoration of Notre Dame.
But the cathedral will only return to normal life very gradually. Hearing Thursday, March 9 at the National Assembly by the working group which follows the construction site, the rector, Mgr Olivier Ribadeau-Dumas, specified that from December 8 we will enter a phase “not definitive, transitional, evolutionary” which could extend until 2028 or even 2030. All the work inside the cathedral will not be finished and above all, it is the development of the surroundings that will take over.
The town hall of Paris presented in June 2022 the project of the Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets, associated with the Grau agency, to transform the 4 hectares surrounding the cathedral. One of the main challenges of the site is the transformation of the basement of the forecourt which will eventually become the reception area for tourists or pilgrims. Until the new site is operational, we will have to manage the influx of visitors.
14 million annual visitors expected
A “director of the public”, specified the rector, will be hired this month of March. A new position to meet the challenge of the 14 million annual visitors expected – against 12 million before the fire. The challenge will be to reconcile this enormous influx with the spiritual expression of the community, which will be more assertive. “For the Archbishop of Paris, explains Mgr Ribadeau-Dumas, it is extremely important that worship be celebrated in the midst of visitors, it is for us a testimony given, without any proselytism”.
Before the fire, the cathedral had 67 employees, against only seven today, he recalled. “In five years we have lost know-how and we will have new staff who have never worked in this cathedral”. It will therefore require a break-in phase. “We have a lot of groundwork to do. We are in discussion with the public establishment to see how this two-month dry run can be done”.
Regarding the interior design, things will also be done gradually. The installation of the chapels will not be finished when Notre-Dame opens. The old furniture and the works taken out after the fire will be replaced in their entirety in the chapels. But “possible orders for contemporary works” could be made in the two or three years following the opening. “You have to see how this cathedral reacts, what emotion it arouses”, continues the rector.
Without waiting, the work of the diocese is advancing rapidly. Regarding the liturgical furniture (altar, baptistery, ambon, cathedra) the artistic committee has selected five artists who will present their projects on May 23. The choice of chairs for the assembly will be made in June.
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