France passes Notre Dame restoration law

A new law setting out the definitive reconstruction plan for the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris has been passed by the French government.

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The new law will allow the five-year project to begin, and grants public funds to finance the work.

The cathedral of Notre Dame was partly destroyed in a fire on April 15 this year. While its famous facade and stained glass window was saved, its spire - designed by architect Viollet-le-Duc - and part of its roof sustained severe damage.

The government has claimed that the law will allow enough funds to finish the repair in five years - the time stated by President Emmanuel Macron, and now judged as “achievable” by Notre Dame head architect, Philippe Villeneuve.

The law is in three parts: the first centres on the organisation of funds; the second on the creation of a new organising body to oversee the work; and the third includes measures to simplify the bureaucracy surrounding the project.

It also confirms the funding promised by the public, in a subscription fund that was set up on April 16. This has now reached around €900 million, after a number of high-profile, multi-million euro pledges from top French businesses.

Individual pledges will benefit from a tax deduction of 75% up to €1,000, instead of the usual 66% amount, the law states. For larger businesses, this will be set at 60%, although some high-profile donors such as Bernard Arnault and François Pinault have said they will waive this for their pledges.

The government bill has been controversial at times, with the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate repeatedly disagreeing over how to rebuild the site - whether to restore exactly as it was, or to try a more modern design.

The government even launched an architecture competition inviting people to submit designs for the project - with some including a rooftop garden, a roof made of glass, and a “spire of light”. The Senate eventually persuaded the government to take a more traditional approach.

Others - including MPs and architecture experts - have disagreed on the time frame, saying that five years is not enough for a sensitive rebuild.

Commenting on the five-year plan, culture minister Franck Riester - who is managing the overall project - said: “We must not confuse speed with haste.”

Mr Riester will work with a scientific adviser, as well as General Georgelin, who is already at the Élysée Palace as a special adviser to the President.

The cathedral is still considered to be in an “urgent state”.

Currently, 130 people are working on securing the site and helping to decontaminate certain areas, after it emerged that the fire had caused lead to be exposed. Lead levels around the cathedral are still considered too high for public safety.

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