Patterico's Pontifications


Notre Dame Cathedral: French Senate Says No To “Experimental” Spire Replacement

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:42 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I say hear, hear for honoring the historical, and for treasuring the exquisite.

A 300-foot-tall flame sculpture, a shooting beam of light, and a tower that resembles a spaceship are among the outlandish proposals put forth by architects to replace Notre Dame’s legendary spire, which collapsed during the cathedral’s devastating fire in April. But, in the end, none of these architectural follies is likely to become reality. On Monday, the French Senate voted that the cathedral must be restored to resemble as closely as possible its appearance before the blaze.

There has been a vigorous argument about the design of a new spire. Demands that it be rebuilt to look as it did before the April fire stood in direct opposition to the push for modernization. The decision to regulate the renovation explicitly mandates that any renovation of the cathedral must preserve the “last-known visual condition” of the monument, including the spire.

Given that “two days after the fire, France’s Prime Minster Édouard Philippe announced an international architectural competition to reconstruct the spire, this week’s vote by the French Senate underscores the belief in preserving tradition. While Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris voiced a preference for a replication of the original design, President Macron said he was open to “a contemporary architectural gesture” that could make Notre Dame Cathedral “even more beautiful.” Oh, please. As if.

Here are a few examples of how architects and artists, and even landscape architects, imagined a new Notre Dame Cathedral spire:




Oh, and yes, this is a cross-shaped swimming pool on top of the cathedral:

notre dame

Make this more beautiful, President Macron? I don’t think so:

notre dame

Here is a brief overview of the spire:

The cathedral’s flèche (or spire), which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire,[81] was located over the transept. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, probably between 1220 and 1230. It was battered, weakened and bent by the wind over five centuries, and finally was removed in 1786. During the 19th-century restoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc decided to recreate it, making a new version of oak covered with lead. The entire spire weighed 750 tons.

Following Viollet-le-Duc’s plans, the spire was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles‍—‌a group of three at each point of the compass. In front of each group is an animal symbolising one of the four evangelists: a steer for Saint Luke, a lion for Saint Mark, an eagle for Saint John and an angel for Saint Matthew. Just days prior to the fire, the statues were removed for restoration.[82] While in place, they had faced outwards towards Paris, except one; the statue of Saint Thomas, the patron saint of architects, which faced the spire, and had the features of Viollet-le-Duc.

The rooster weathervane atop the spire contained three relics: a tiny piece from the Crown of Thorns in the cathedral treasury, and relics of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, patron saints of Paris. They were placed there in 1935 by Archbishop Jean Verdier, to protect the congregation from lightning or other harm. The rooster with relics intact was recovered in the rubble shortly after the 2019 fire.[83]

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


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