When the wind blows around Notre Dame these days, strange whistling chimes fill the air. A ghostly harmony made by the gaping holes of the ancient medieval structure, left by the fire exactly a year ago.
For most of the past year, this quiet music has been drowned out by the sounds of construction, tourists and traffic around Notre Dame. But today, this gothic giant is silent and empty.
The cranes are clumsy and frozen above its scaffolding, the usual flow of tourists lining up for selfies outside the freshly constructed hoarding has disappeared.
Restrictions in place to control the coronavirus have resulted in all restoration work being halted.
“Alone, but not abandoned”
“Notre-Dame is an 850-year-old lady,” said the rector of Notre-Dame, Patrick Chauvet. “She is a wounded old lady. “
“And for all the elderly, the wounded, those in quarantine or isolated in retirement homes, I think there is a symbolic link. There is no one around Notre Dame here either; she was left alone, but not abandoned. “
In the late afternoon of April 15, 2019, Monseigneur Chauvet was having a drink in a nearby cafe when smoke started to rise from Notre Dame’s spire.
More from the BBC on the Notre Dame fire
He ran to the building he knows so well.
The fire spread quickly, blazing through the mass of medieval rafters – known as “the forest” – and knocking down the iconic arrow.
For a few critical hours, firefighters warned the French president that Notre-Dame might not be saved.
A year later, wooden buttresses appeared on the exterior walls, and a vast canvas of new scaffolding rose around the building.
Ironically, it is a set of ancient scaffolding, put up in front of the fire to restore certain statues of the cathedral, which constitutes the immediate threat.
It burned and twisted in heat, and must now be taken apart and taken apart.
Patrick Chauvet says that the building is not yet completely secure.
“It is still fragile,” he told me. “It just takes a storm, a tornado, and it’s going to move. When the old scaffolding that is welded together is removed, then we can say that the cathedral is 100% saved. “
Claudine Loisel, a glass specialist working on restoration, thoroughly tested lead and grime on each panel of the stained glass windows in the 19th century building, to verify that it is safe for restorers to start their work.
She told a BBC4 television documentary, Rebuilding Notre Dame, that some of the windows had not been cleaned for a century and that the dirt may have helped save them from lead contamination in the fire. .
“The first thick layer [of dust] acted as a little protective layer, “she explained. So we just need to remove all of these deposits to clean these windows. “
Claudine was working on a window at a lower level of the cathedral, but specialists believe that the windows above are probably the most affected.
Specialized artisans across the country worked far from Notre Dame on art and furniture saved from fire. This is a huge national effort to minimize what is lost.
But it was not only the coronavirus that delayed recovery.
Lead contamination also caused long delays immediately after the fire, and bad weather further hampered efforts.
Researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris create a digital model of each stone and chevron, to support the restoration work.
Notre-Dame before the fire in 360 ° video
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Each has its own properties, sometimes its own medieval signature. It is the technology of the 12th and 21st centuries that come together.
“It’s incredible,” says researcher Livio de Luca, “because in this project, we are able to use the most advanced technologies … in a human adventure. The data we produce will be analyzed by the next generation for years to come. “
Ideas are already emerging on the appearance of the new spire and the new roof. International architects have sent designs including mirrors, solar panels or a vast expanse of stained glass.
A changing face for an old identity. The building known worldwide as Notre-Dame; Our Lady.
For centuries, for many, the First Lady of France.
Rebuild Notre Dame: Inside the Great Cathedral Rescue will be broadcast in the UK on BBC4 TV Wednesday at 2100 BST.