It has been just over a year since we all held our breaths as we watched the devastating fire engulf one of Paris’ most recognized symbols, the Notre Dame cathedral. While the COVID virus has delayed restoration plans, crews have slowely returned back to the site and the Paris government has set an aggressive timeline to have it complete in time for the Summer Olympics in 2024.
According to a story in DW.com, “Architects, engineers, archeologists, scientists and art historians have been busy analyzing the full extent of the damage sustained by the 850-year-old edifice.” Geologist Jean-Didier Mertz has been a consultant for the restoration of Notre Dame from the beginning — along with his team at “Laboratoire de recherche des monuments historiques” (LRMH), one of the most renowned architectural research institutes in France. His laboratory is analyzing bricks salvaged from the blaze and can identify where the fire left its traces, including dark markings coming from molten lead.
LRMH is still in the early stages of the rebuilding process. They are used to dealing with all kinds of materials such as bricks, wood, concrete, metal, and even textiles, making them the go-to institute when it comes to restoring an important monument in a holistic manner. Mertz and his team are looking closely at the type of mortar that was used when Notre Dame was first erected. “It’s 850 years old and has managed to survive for centuries. We want to learn what its components are, so we can recreate it using the same methods as back then.” They hope to ascertain the quality of the bricks that still remain in the cathedral during their examination and then find quarries that mine identical building materials.
Prior to the pandemic “lockdown,” one of the major problems encountered in this year since the fire is how to deal with the issue of lead. The roof of the structure was covered in more than 200 tons of the substance, and all of it melted during the blaze. There’s an additional 250 tons of lead from the destroyed spire, built in the 19th century.
NPR reported in early June that work has restarted at the famous Cathedral. The first step is an intricate and delicate process of removing damaged scaffolding which had initially been placed on the cathedral’s old spire for renovation, but was caught in the 2019 blaze.
Once a final decision is taken in terms of design, restoration work is expected to start in earnest in 2021.