French President Emmanuel Macron inspected the ongoing renovation work at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, two years after a devastating blaze gutted the 850-year old monument.
From the rooftop, the French leader said he was “impressed” by “all the work that has been accomplished”.
His visit was to express “a message of collective pride” for the work carried out. “We avoided the worst,” he added.
“A huge thank you to all those who are mobilised, by the thousands already, on this site,” he added.
The fire, which broke out on the evening of April 15, 2019, stunned the country and people across the world. Millions watched live as the building’s spire collapsed.
The roof, built on a timber frame, was mostly destroyed and the cathedral’s structural integrity was weakened. Some of the stonework, glass windows and many of the artworks inside were also damaged by the flames or the water used to extinguish them.
The building has a special place in the French psyche having survived, mostly unscathed, the trials and tribulations wrought by several centuries of history, including the bombings of the Second World War. It is also the setting of one of the country’s best-known literary works of art – The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
The restoration of the Gothic icon was estimated at about €7 billion. Culture Minister Roselyn Bachelot told lawmakers on Wednesday that €830 million had been collected in donations.
She added that the site should be secured by the end of the summer and that restoration will then be allowed to begin in earnest.
It took experts more than a year and a half to dismantle the scaffolding put in place to renovate the spire which was damaged by the fire.
Macron still hopes to reopen the monument to the public in April 2024, in time for the Summer Olympics, which will be held in the French capital.