Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral launches appeal for interior restoration

notre dame Debris inside Notre-Dame de Paris, April 16, 2019, a day after a fire that devastated the building in the centre of the French capital./ Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP/Getty Images.

The Archdiocese of Paris launched a multimillion-dollar appeal Monday to restore the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral following the devastating fire in 2019.

In a June 14 statement, the archdiocese said that Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris was launching the new appeal with a view to the cathedral’s scheduled reopening in 2024.

The French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, but the cathedral authorities are responsible for its interior renewal.

“The program of interior improvements, which is entirely the responsibility of the cathedral, aims first of all to return it to worship -- its primary function -- and, more broadly, to offer a new tour to the six million faithful, pilgrims and tourists who enter the cathedral each year,” the statement said.

Under the initiative, which will cost five to six million euros ($6.1-$7.3 million), two projects a year will be presented to French and foreign donors.

The campaign will be supported by the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, an American foundation created at the initiative of Paris archdiocese.

The celebrated French Gothic cathedral, built between 1163 and 1345, held a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The relic was rescued on the night of the fire, April 15, 2019, by Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

The first two projects presented to donors will be the restoration of the reliquary case of the Crown of Thorns, which was damaged during the rescue, and the creation of a new tabernacle.

Future projects will include new seating for the choir and assembly, lighting, sound systems, and a music room, as well as changes to the choir organ and altar.

Aupetit said: “The renovation of Notre-Dame provides an opportunity to bring the cathedral into the 21st century, while maintaining the preservation of its own identity, in the spirit of Christian tradition.”

“But it seems essential to us to propose keys to understanding to inscribe it in the collective memory of today. Also, some adjustments are necessary.”

The statement said that teams working under the archbishop's delegate, Fr. Gilles Drouin, have reflected on how the restored interior could emphasize the cathedral’s “liturgical axis” running from the baptistery to the tabernacle and create a better pathway for visitors.

“An itinerary will be proposed, along the side chapels, up to the Crown of Thorns in the east, to give visitors, often of non-Christian culture, the keys to understanding the Mystery for which the cathedral was built and which still constitutes its raison d’être today,” it said.

Following the fire, the French government said that it would reconstruct the church with four partners: the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the Fondation du Patrimoine, the Fondation de France, and the Fondation Notre-Dame.

The Fondation Notre-Dame, founded in 1992 by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, has collected 85.8 million euros ($105 million) in donations as of June 10, Paris archdiocese said.

The interior restoration appeal will take place under the aegis of the Fondation Notre-Dame.

Archbishop Aupetit will celebrate a Mass in the cathedral on June 16 marking the feast of the Dedication of Notre-Dame de Paris. For security reasons, only 12 people are allowed to take part in the celebration.

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The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

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