PARIS－With precision and boundless energy, a team of carpenters has used medieval techniques to raise, by hand, a three-ton oak truss in front of Notre Dame cathedral, a replica of the wooden structures that were consumed in the fire that also toppled its spire in April 2019.
The demonstration on Saturday to mark European Heritage Days gave hundreds of people a firsthand look at the rustic methods used 800 years ago to build the triangular frames in the cathedral’s nave.
It also showed that the decision to replicate the cathedral in its original form was the right one, said General Jean-Louis Georgelin, in charge of the cathedral’s reconstruction.
“It shows… first that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France. Second, it shows us the… method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”
A debate over whether the new spire should have a futuristic design or whether the trusses should be made of fireproof cement as with the cathedral in Nantes, destroyed by fire in 1972, ended with the decision in July to respect Notre Dame’s original design and materials.
Twenty-five trusses are to be installed in the cathedral nave at an unknown date. Philippe Gourmain, a forestry expert working on the cathedral, said the carpentry phase will not come before 2022.
“The problem of Notre Dame is not a carpentry problem. We have the wood. We know how to do it. The big issue is regarding the stone.”
Some stones, which support the carpentry, were damaged by the fire, and “it’s not so easy now” to find similar stone, he said.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron wants the cathedral reopened in time for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, a deadline many experts have called unrealistic.
For the moment, the delicate task of dismantling melted scaffolding, originally erected to refurbish the now-toppled spire, continues. That job, started in early June, will be completed next month.
The soaring cathedral vaults are also being cleared of debris by 35 specialists on ropes. The organ with its 8,000 pipes was removed for repair last month.
It is as yet unknown what technique will be used to create and install the wooden trusses.
Agencies Via Xinhua