French President Emmanuel Macron toured the reconstruction works at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Friday, cheering on workers painstakingly restoring the medieval monument four years after it suffered a devastating fire.
With light streaming through the cathedral’s stained-glass rose windows, Macron and his wife Brigitte gazed up at activity underway to replace the roof and spire, consumed by the flames on April 15, 2019.
Outside, Macron stepped carefully along scaffolding and shouted to workers, “Good luck, and don’t give up in the months ahead!”
Macron has taken a personal interest in the reconstruction, creating a government agency to oversee the works and pushing for the cathedral to reopen to visitors and the faithful next year. While it won’t be ready in time for the Paris Olympics in July-August 2024, it is currently slated to open in time for Christmas next year.
Authorities chose to rebuild the 12th-century monument, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the way it was before. That includes recreating the 93-meter-high (315 ft) spire added in the 19th century by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
The base of the spire is currently being installed and is scheduled to be in place on Saturday, the fourth anniversary of the fire. The spire itself will be built in stages over the coming months, according to a statement Friday from the state agency overseeing the reconstruction.
Work is also under way to piece back together the cathedral’s 18th-century organ, which was removed and cleaned after sustaining damage in the fire, and to clean the cathedral’s 42,000 square meters (452,084 square feet) of walls, the agency said.
The reconstruction itself started last year, after more than two years of work to make the monument stable and secure enough for artisans to start rebuilding it.
The visit to Notre Dame came amid mass protests around France against Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age, and against his leadership.