American builders help to restore iconic Paris landmark

April 15, 2024
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However, 2,000 Oak trees were sourced from forests around Europe for the rebuild. Some of them up to 400 years old, they were left to dry for 12 to 19 months before the carpenters used them. 

Guerry said she thought finding the money for the expensive rebuild might have been an issue, “but, gosh, the people wanted Notre Dame back.” 

Rebuilding Notre Dame de Paris, the public body responsible for the conservation and restoration of the cathedral, estimated it would cost $760 million. To date 340,000 donors from more than 150 countries have donated around $895 million, it says on its website.    

Guerry said the French state and the Catholic Church had also contributed along with wealthy dynasties. It was very “medieval to have the elite families step forward and donate,” she added.   

“What’s perhaps slightly different today is there is no demand to put their name on the building,” she said. “But what a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

“We all felt something watching that spire fall,” she added. “It made us feel like we were losing a part of our history, our heritage and our connection to our spiritual selves, and no matter where you were in the world watching this ancient building catch fire, you felt for the people of Paris, you felt for the people of France and perhaps you felt for the people who built it.” 

“Significant progress” has been made on the restoration work, according to a report last year by the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, a nonprofit that raises money for the restoration work.

Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in France is expected to be completed this year
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Saturday, as restoration work continues.Esra Taskin / Anadolu via Getty Images

And ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, work by the crack team of carpenters, scaffolding experts, professional climbers, organ mechanics and others continues apace at the cathedral, which oversees Paris from an island on the Seine river.

While the most modern of building methods are being employed, Silver, the carpenter, said when NBC News first interviewed him at a workshop in Normandy last year that tools had been re-created on site to match those used centuries ago, by the original builders. 

“We’re using a mix of 13th-century tools such as the broad axes or dog walk — to finish all the surfaces, we’re using chisels and saws, mallets,” he said. “Everything is finished by hand so that the result is an almost identical replica of the Gothic frame that was there.”

Silver, who watched on as the oak roof frames he crafted were lifted into position by a large crane earlier this year, said the U.S. has “a built tradition that’s much newer, but that is derived from these European methods.”

“So for someone like me, being able to work on this building, which is the birth of this technique, is particularly meaningful,” he said.

“Did you ever think you’d be able to look at Notre Dame and say, ‘I built that?’”

Keir Simmons and Laura Saravia reported from Paris. Henry Austin reported from London.



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