Controversial Plans to Modernize Notre-Dame Move Forward

France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission has approved proposed plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral’s restoration this past Thursday, the New York Times reports.

Following the 2019 fire that engulfed the beloved Paris cathedral, French President Emmanuel Macron, along with a group of designers, proposed that Notre-Dame absorb modernizing touches, including a revamped spire. A major outcry ensued, with architects and other experts alleging that the original Gothic architecture would be diluted by contemporary interventions. Under the finalized plan, there will be no major alterations to the original architecture, though some compromises mean that the cathedral will still face big changes.

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A major new lighting plan will be installed. It’s set to include projectors, so that Bible verses can be illuminated on the interior walls. Meanwhile, modern artworks will be hung alongside centuries-old ones.

The most major intervention will not be the addition of new features but rather the removal of old ones: the confessionals and a tabernacle will be taken away so more visitors can fit inside the cathedral. This rearrangement also means that the Notre-Dame’s visitors will be able to enter through the front entrance as opposed to a side door. According to a current timeline, the cathedral will be modernized in time for the Olympics in 2024.

Despite the scaling back of some of the most ambitious plans to update Notre-Dame, Catholics, intellectual figures, and the larger public, remain unhappy. An open letter in the conservative newspaper Le Figaro titled “Notre-Dame de Paris: What the fire spared, the diocese wants to destroy” was signed by 100 prominent French figures like philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. Meanwhile, Jon Snow, a newscaster with the British TV station Channel 4, bemoaned the “Disneyification” of the cathedral, citing passages in the plan that highlighted so-called discovery tours.

These new plans were fully approved by the diocese, who vetoed several propositions, including the removal of statues of saints from certain chapels. Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, Notre-Dame’s rector, told the New York Times, “Don’t think we’re going to make Disneyland.” Rather the changes being implemented are to simply make accommodating the 12 million visitors of the cathedral a bit more comfortable.


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