French Officials Doubt Macron Will Hit Goal Of Rebuilding Notre Dame In 5 Years
French President Emmanuel Macron was never more popular than the day that a massive blaze erupted on the roof of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the most popular tourist attraction in France, and an icon of Catholicism, and of French culture.
Seizing the opportunity to be a “leader,” Macron delivered a fiery speech about the importance of Notre Dame to the spirit of the French people, and vowed to finish restoring the burned-out cathedral as soon as possible.
Caught up in the passion of the moment, Macron delivered what he asserted was an unshakeable vow: He would rebuild Notre Dame in 5 years.
Now, roughly six months in, some French officials are questioning the feasibility of that time frame, according to FT.
The latest to doubt Macron’s 5 year timeline is French culture minister Franck Riester, who said in an interview over the weekend that there had been ‘complications’ at the site during emergency repairs that might delay the project. He hopes now that the cathedral can open to the public within 5 years while restoration continues.
“The most important thing is the quality of the restoration and of the project,” he told the newspaper Le Parisien. “It must be done in a reasonable time.”
He added that “we’re not focused on a timetable.”
“We’re not focused on a timetable. Our aim is five years, but there’s no countdown. The president never asks me when the work will begin. I’m not being put under pressure and there is no obsession.”
Even as some experts warned that it could take decades to finish restoring Notre Dame, Macron declared during his first live television address after the fire: “We Will rebuild the cathedral of Notre-Dame and make it even more beautiful than before and I want this to be completed within five years…we can do it, and we will mobilize to do it.”
Even the architect in charge of the restoration now doubts Macron’s timeline, agreeing instead with Riester, who said that five years might be enough time to reopen the cathedral to the public, but completing the project will likely take even longer.
Philippe Villeneuve, the architect in charge of the restoration, has been more cautious. He said: “In five years, we can rebuild the vaults and the roof, and reopen the church to both worshippers and public. But not much more.”
But not everyone sees the five-year target as impossible.
Not everyone regards the five-target as impossible, however. André Finot, the cathedral’s communications director who once attended services as an altar-boy and was at the building on the night of the fire, said: “It can be done in five years. That’s my point of view.”
“I’m here and I see how the works are going fantastically well. In the first three months workers were here seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Still, after passing a law in July limiting the new materials and techniques that can be used during reconstruction, many suspect that management of the restoration is slipping from a presidential priority to something that will be governed by the innerworkings of the French bureaucracy.