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'We can do it': Macron wants Notre Dame rebuilt 'within five years'

Experts have said it could take significantly longer than the French President’s timeframe.

France Notre Dame Fire Interior of Notre Dame following yesterday's fire Christophe Petit Tesson / PA Images Christophe Petit Tesson / PA Images / PA Images

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris “within five years” after a major fire ripped through the 850 year-old structure yesterday. 

“We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautifully and I want it to be finished within five years,” Macron said in a televised address to the nation one day after the blaze. “And we can do it.”

However, he also warned: “Let us not fall into the trap of haste.”

Macron said that yesterday’s fire, the cause of which is yet unknown, had brought out the best in his divided nation. “What we saw last night in Paris was our capacity to mobilise and to unite,” the 41-year-old leader said in an address from his office this evening. 

Over the course of its history, France has seen towns, ports and churches go up in flames, he said.

“Each time we rebuilt them,” he said, adding that blaze at Notre Dame had shown that “our history never stops and that we will always have trials to overcome.”

TV address by Emmanuel Macron amid Notre-Dame disaster Macron during this evening's TV address Pool / ABACA Pool / ABACA / ABACA

Experts, however, have poured cold water on the French President’s timeframe for rebuilding and restoring the 12th-century cultural landmark. 

Specialist craftsmen and rare materials are expected to be needed to restore the monument, too roof and steeple of which collapsed after a blaze which began at 7pm yesterday.

The head of a French lumber company told FranceInfo radio that it was ready to offer the best oak beams available to rebuild the intricate lattice that supported the now-destroyed roof. 

“The work will surely take years, decades even, but it will require thousands of cubic metres of wood. We’ll have to find the best specimens, with large diameters,” Sylvain Charlois of the Charlois group in Murlin, central France, told the radio station.

UNESCO has also said it will stand “at France’s side” to restore the site, which was declared a world heritage site in 1991.

“We are already in contact with experts and ready to dispatch an urgent mission to evaluate the damage, save what can be saved and start elaborating measures for the short – and medium-term,” UNESCO’s secretary general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Notre Dame. The fire at Notre Dame lasted for nine hours PA Images PA Images

Meanwhile, Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral, which recently underwent a three-year facelift, has said it will likely be decades before the cathedral is fully restored. 

“The damage will be significant. But we are lucky in France to still have a network of excellent heritage restoration companies, whether small-time artisans or bigger groups,” he has said. 

Fischer said the ability to rebuild the colossal cathedral in a manner that respects its original form and character would depend on the plans, diagrams and other materials available to the architects.

They would need “a maximum of historical data or more recent data gathered with modern technology such as 3D scans” of the kind used in the restoration of the Strasbourg cathedral, he said.

Junior interior minister Laurent Nunez told reporters this afternoon that “some weaknesses” have been identified in the structure of the fire-ravaged cathedral but overall the monument “is holding up ok”.

“Some weaknesses have been identified particularly in the vault and the gable of the northern transept, which have to be secured,” Nunez said, adding that five neighbouring buildings had been evacuated.

‘A tighter deadline’

Culture minister Franck Riester said that three large holes have been identified in the building.

“There are three large holes, one which is in fact due to the crumbling of the spire and another one at the cross-section of the transept and then the ceiling and the northern transept,” he said.

Two French billionaires have already have pledged hundreds of millions of euro to help rebuild the famed cathedral while Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also said the city would unlock €50 million, and would propose holding an international donors’ conference in the coming weeks to coordinate the pledges to restore the gothic architectural masterpiece.

The privately run French Heritage Foundation has already launched a call for donations on its website, while several pages were set up on the Leetchi fundraising portal.

The Ile-de-France region comprising the greater Paris region is to provide another €10 million.

Jack Lang, the prominent former culture minister under late president Francois Mitterrand, called talk of a decade-long restoration programme “a joke”.

“We have to give ourselves a tighter deadline, like we have done in the past on major projects.”

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