The Reconstruction Plan for Paris's Notre Dame Is Receiving Criticism — Here's Why

The proposal was just approved on Dec. 9.

It's been almost three years since the world watched in shock as Paris's Notre Dame cathedral burst into flames, the cause of which is still under investigation. And while the reconstruction of the historic landmark is well underway, the process has proven more controversial than anticipated.

First of all, French President Emmanuel Macron had to drop his plan to replace the cathedral's famous spire with a more modern one after a public outcry. And now, an approved plan is drawing criticism from many French citizens.

Restoration at Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Paris in October 2021
Francois Lochon/Getty Images

The controversial proposal, first announced in May by the diocese of Paris, which manages the 850-year-old gothic structure, was accepted by the French National Heritage and Architecture Commission on Dec. 9. As part of the reconstruction plan, a new "discovery trail" will be installed in the cathedral, where excerpts from the Bible will be projected on the walls in multiple languages. Some 2,000 objects, such as altars, sculptures, and confessional boxes will be moved to make space for visitors (the cathedral received approximately 12 million visitors annually before the fire). And finally, paintings from contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois may be displayed as part of new art installations, perhaps even replacing the confessionals, according to France24. New "mobile benches" will also replace the old straw chairs. Proponents of the plan claim that the new redesign will create a bridge between modernity and traditional art.

Two days before the approval, more than a hundred public figures published an open letter in one of France's biggest daily publications, Le Figaro, as well as The Art Tribune, expressing their concern over the proposal. In it, they claim that it will "completely distort the decor and the liturgical space" and blame the authors of the proposal for attempting to create a "new experience in the cathedral" contrary to what Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who restored Notre-Dame in the 19th century, intended.

The cathedral is scheduled to reopen its doors in 2024 for the Paris Olympics.

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