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27 December 2019, 10:43 | Updated: 27 December 2019, 16:22
Seven months after fire ravaged the beloved gothic monument, the cathedral’s future remains in peril.
The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral has said the damaged building is still so fragile that there’s only a 50/50 chance of the structure being saved.
Monsignor Patrick Chauvet made the comments to The Associated Press on Christmas Eve, saying: “today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved”.
The rector also warned of the chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, adding, “you can see the building is still very fragile.”
50,000 tubes of scaffolding, installed before this year’s fire, are damaged and are at risk of collapsing. However, the scaffolding is still supporting the stone structures of the building, creating a headache for repairers.
The rector also described his “heartache” that Notre Dame couldn’t hold Christmas services this year, for the first time since the French Revolution.
The fire, which broke out on Monday evening, 15 April, is thought to be linked to the structure’s ongoing $6.8 million renovation project. Police treated the fire as an accident.
Firefighters managed to save the main stone structure of the monument, including the two bell towers, the organ and the iconic rose window.
The Associated Press reports that restoration work isn’t likely to begin until 2021. Repairs to the damage are complicated by the need to stabilise the structure.
The cathedral was built during the 12th and 13th centuries, and is considered one of the world’s finest examples of French Gothic architecture.
President Emmanuel Macron has vowed the cathedral will be rebuilt “even more beautifully”, adding that he wants the work completed in the next five years. Experts have warned the reconstruction could take decades.
Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes. Émotion de toute une nation. Pensée pour tous les catholiques et pour tous les Français. Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette part de nous.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 15, 2019
After the fire, French billionaire Bernard Arnault announced that he would be donating 200 million euros to help with the reconstruction, while fashion group Kering, founded by Francois Pinault, has offered 100 million euros.
André Rieu, the Dutch violinist and conductor, has offered to provide 700 tons of steel, originally used to build his famous Schönbrunn Palace replica, to “help erect the scaffold for the restoration of beautiful Notre-Dame”.
Apple has also said they will make a donation. CEO Mark Cook wrote on Twitter: "We are heartbroken for the French people and those around the world for whom Notre Dame is a symbol of hope. Apple will be donating to the rebuilding efforts to help restore Notre Dame's precious heritage for future."
The Notre-Dame school of composers played a very important role in the history of music. Composers like Léonin and Pérotin led the development of polyphonic music in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the cathedral was renowned for its traditions of French organ and choral music.
It also boasts the largest organ in France, with five keyboards, 109 stops and nearly 8,000 pipes. The instrument, miraculously, was saved in the blaze.