General leading Notre-Dame restoration in Paris dies on mountain hike

General Georgelin, who recently spoke with The Connexion, fell while hiking alone in the Pyrenees

General Georgelin was entrusted with the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral in April 2019
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The head of the project to rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, died after a fall while hiking in the Pyrenees on Friday (August 18).

President Macron led tributes to the former army general, 74, who was a former chief of staff to President Chirac and chief of France’s defence staff from 2006 to 2010 and a Grand Master of the Légion d'honneur:

“The nation has lost one of its great soldiers. France has lost one of its great stewards. Notre-Dame has lost the chief orchestrator of its rebirth.”

A hiking accident in the Pyrenees

General Georgelin, who recently spoke to the Connexion about how he accepted the challenge of leading the reconstruction of Notre-Dame after being approached by the president, had been hiking alone on Mont Valier in Ariége when he fell.

The warden of the Refuge des Estagnous, where the general was to spend the night, had raised the alarm at 20:15 when he had not returned.

Around an hour later mountain rescue workers located his body. He was transferred by helicopter to Pujols aerodrome where a doctor confirmed the death.

On Saturday, forensic analysis in Toulouse confirmed that the death was accidental.

Investigators were able to infer from their observations and from witnesses that the accident occurred “at around 20:00 following a significant fall at a steep, rocky section as he was descending”.

The mayor of Bordes-Uchentein, the commune where the accident occurred, told Ladepeche that the area is not considered particularly dangerous.

“I would say that it is the easiest path in the area. It is a very busy sector, with hundreds of people there every day. It is unusual to have a death here, but there are often little accidents like twisted ankles,” he said.

Mass held in his honour in Paris

The general was a devout Catholic and benedictine oblate, which is a layman who has sworn to follow the Rule of St Benedict.

He had told The Connexion in June of his immense pride as a Catholic of being entrusted with overseeing the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris, which is on track to meet President Macron’s five year target for reopening.

He never married or had children, and such was his devotion to his work on the Cathedral that he would only take holidays when the president was also on holiday, le Parisien reports.

On Sunday the Archbishop of Paris, Laurent Ulrich, dedicated a Mass to him at Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois in Paris.

The Archbishop, who worked closely with General Georgelin on the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, said: “Today, France and the Church have lost one of their most devoted servants, and we all share the deep pain of his loss.”

Jean-Louis Georgelin was born August 30 1948 in Aspet, Haute Garonne. The place and time of the funeral has yet to be announced.

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