PARIS — It has been two months since a fire at the start of Holy Week destroyed the roof of the famed Notre Dame Cathedral. The large gothic structure now sits, enveloped in scaffolding, as a part of the low-rise Parisian skyline. The 300-foot spire that once appeared to stretch out to heaven is missing. These are constant reminders of that April 15 blaze and the hard work that lies ahead.
Rebuilding the ornate cathedral will be a painstaking task. Estimated to cost in the billions, Notre Dame has also become a pawn in a broader political fight that has divided France and much of the continent.
In a country so politically polarized — the outcome of the recent European election was another reminder of this — the fate of Notre Dame very much rests in the hands of the country’s warring lawmakers.
There has been much speculation since the fire over what will happen to the 12th century structure. A symbol of European Catholicism and Western civilization since the Middle Ages, a tug-of-war has traditionalists and modernists divided over what is the best way to rebuild.
“I think that some of the proposals are quite interesting, in particular, the notion of creating a very large glass skylight. If that were done to be a modern version of stained glass, I think it could be absolutely beautiful,” said architect Brett Robillard. “Stained glass was something of the first ‘films’ with light moving through pictures. So I think there is real poetry there to see modern technology paid homage to something so embedded in the religious spectrum and fill the spaces with beautiful light.”
Should Notre Dame be restored it to its former Medieval glory or reflect a more modern aesthetic?
This is at the center of the fight and, thus, press coverage of the debates.