After the fire

Against the odds, Notre Dame cathedral will reopen this year

The rebuilding of the famous monument prompted a debate about how much should change

ON AN ICY January morning, perched at a dizzying height of nearly 100 metres above the ground, specialist roofers are covering the rebuilt oak spire of Notre Dame cathedral with layers of lead sheeting. Working on platforms reached by a perilous flight of narrow steps that cling to the soaring spire, they are putting the final touches on a 1,000-piece, solid-oak structure that will soon restore the cathedral’s familiar silhouette.

Designed in 1859 by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, an architect, and felled by the devastating fire of 2019, the new flèche remains hidden behind dense scaffolding. But five years after the world watched aghast as the gothic cathedral roof was devoured by flames, the project to rebuild Notre Dame is, astonishingly, on schedule. The cathedral doors are due to reopen in December. (Visitors for the Olympics, which Paris will host starting in late July, must wait to glimpse inside.)

The rebuilding of Notre Dame is one of the most complex and ambitious reconstruction projects that France has ever undertaken on a historic monument. Fire engulfed the entire…