Notre Dame with new furniture and stained glass windows: the restoration project divides France
Outside it will return identical to as it was, with its Neo- Gothic spire piercing the sky above Paris. But inside? Notre Dame could rise from the ashes of the 15 April fire two years ago with new furniture, lighter, modern and chic, with new stained-glass windows and minimalist, contemporary balconies; in short, the opposite of the grisaille windows of the side chapels (which saved themselves from the flames), and in complete contrast to the rustic straw chairs that for decades have warmly, albeit with some disorder, filled the nave of the cathedral.
Surprisingly, all of this was not thought up by some inspired designer, but the priests of the church, led by Monsignor Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, who nurtured these fantasies of modernization, which in turn began to feed the first inevitable controversy.
The reflection phase of reconstruction
For now everything is at the stage of "reflection" and "proposal", but a sudden leak of information, first from Figaro, then from Parisien, has opened the debate and caused a heated split between modernists and conservatives.
With almost a billion euros in donations to spend on the rebuilding of the church, and the State that will have the last word on the reconstruction of the structure, the priests would like to leave their mark at least on the interior furniture. Monsignor Aupetit has created a committee of about forty people to "reflect" and "propose" ideas for the interior: furniture, lighting, panels, circulation of tourists and the faithful.
The coronavirus also stopped the rebirth: the construction sites of Notre Dame in Paris and the Basilica of Norcia were closed.
The first ideas to come out sound like a small revolution. First of all, the faithful would like to replace the grisaille stained-glass windows, with their geometric and rather obscure designs by the nineteenth-century architect Viollet Le Duc, with new ones, commissioned to contemporary artists. Even the possibility of projecting "luminous biblical verses, very 2020” has been evoked. "I do not understand why (the Archbishop of Paris) is launching into this controversy”, commented the designer Stéphane Bern, to whom Macron has entrusted a special mission for the promotion and protection of French heritage, “I have nothing against the contemporary, but Notre Dame is something very special, it is not a building like any other, it is a political, historical and cultural symbol”. The novelist and essayist Jean-Marie Rouart, member of the Académie Française, wrote “Notre Dame has miraculously escaped everything, it would be sad if it collapsed under the reformist itch of Monsignor Aupetit"
Father Gilles Drouin, at the head of the committee in charge of studying the new look of the cathedral, tried to calm spirits by explaining that it is above all a matter of better managing the flow of the approximately 12 million visitors who come in and out of Notre Dame every year, often passing indifferently in front of the chapels, taking a tour around the altar and occasionally stopping to sit on the famous straw chairs.
The Chairs of Notre Dame up close
The very chairs that, by the way, are not a legacy of history but simply of the creativity of the former Archbishop of Paris Lustiger, who designed them himself in the 1980s, and are now in the sights of the modernising will of current priests. In their place, priests propose new "very contemporary" pews with "bright spots" and very pure lines. "The old church designed by Cardinal Lustiger have all been destroyed," explained Father Drouin. We want the cathedral to be more accessible and more visible. We want to make more sense of the visit, but it will not become a museum".
Ph: Vernerie Yann / Shutterstock.com
View on Map
Notre Dame could have new furniture and stained glass windows
Notre Dame, Paris, France