The beloved Notre Dame Cathedral might never be restored due to the extent of structural damage caused by the accidental fire in April, according to the church's rector.
Monsignor Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press the iconic building is in such a precarious state that there is only a 50% chance the church will be restored because scaffolding that was installed before the blaze was threatening its vaults.
“Today it is not out of danger,” Chauvet said in an interview with the AP at a Christmas Eve midnight mass in a nearby church.
“It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding.”
“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he said.
The world watched in horror as flames consumed the roof and spire of Notre Dame, both of which collapsed in the fire. The church was being renovated at the time.
Although services have reopened in the cathedral since the fire — with priests and lay ministers wearing helmets — for the first time since the French Revolution, Christmas Eve mass could not be held there due to safety risks.
Approximately 50,000 tubes of scaffolding had been installed at the back of the church, some of which was damaged during the fire. Taking those tubes down without exacerbating structural damage is a concern for Chauvet, who explained, “We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral.”
“Once the scaffolding is removed," he added, "we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”
The Catholic leader said it might take another three years after 2021 to ensure the safety of the structure before people can safely enter, and noted that the complete restoration will require even more time. Paris is set to host the 2024 Olympic Games and French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the church repaired by that time, a goal some say is unlikely.
Further contributing to the problems facing the structure and its parishioners is that the April fire released tons of toxic lead dust into the air that workers are still cleaning it up.
The cathedral's forecourt is fenced off and tourists can take pictures from afar but cannot enter the church.
The cathedral held its Christmas celebrations at the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois Church across from the Louvre Museum this year.
Construction of the church began in 1163 and took nearly 200 years to complete. The Gothic church is one of the first to make use of flying buttresses, which slant to from a separate pier, usually forming an arch with the wall it supports.