France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission has approved proposed plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral’s restoration

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Removing scaffolding at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after the fire. Photo courtesy of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris.

French authorities have approved a proposal to redecorate the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral despite objections from a hundred cultural figures and criticism that the changes are “Disneyify” the historic landmark. The French National Heritage and Architecture Commission approved this proposal.

The proposals, submitted by the Parisian diocese in charge of the cathedral, include the installation of contemporary artwork and decorative lighting to give the 850-year-old Gothic structure a new look. Notre Dame is scheduled to reopen in 2024.

Displays inside the cathedral include 2,000 moving objects. They will also be rearranged to give visitors more space. Prior to the devastating fire in 2019, Notre Dame had an estimated 12 million visitors a year.

According to the rector  Patrick Chauvet, the Notre Dame restoration is intended to promote a “dialogue” between the old and the new.

Proponents of the plan say pairing medieval architecture with modern elements, including combining artwork from the cathedral’s Old Masters collection with works by possible artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois, will make it more accessible to modern audiences, AFP reported.

PARIS, FRANCE – APRIL 14: Fire rages through the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019 in Paris, France. A fire broke out on Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the building, collapsing the spire. The cause is unknown, but officials say it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work. (Photo by Philippe Wang/Getty Images)

Bible excerpts in multiple languages ​​could be projected onto the wall. It is considered to be a part of a new, softer lighting system that is still being considered by the diocese, Chauvet told the New York Times.

The approval came just two days after about 100 public figures, including art historians, heritage and architecture experts, intellectuals, artists, and writers, signed the petition at Le Figaro and La Tribune de l’Art. The petition condemns the Parisian diocese for taking advantage of the restoration project. According to them, this proposal completely distorts the decor and liturgical space.

On TV5Monde, Didier Rykner, art critic, journalist, and founder of La Tribune de l’Art, said that the Diocese wants to appear modern with these works. But we must respect the monument and spirit of Viollet-le-Duc. Rickner was referring to Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, who restored Notre Dame in the mid-19th century.

Images of Notre Dame in flames shocked the world in April 2019, with almost $1 billion raised to restore the cathedral. Since then, there have been lengthy and dramatic debates over restoration plans, including President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to replace the spire with a modern architectural gesture.

This proposal was rejected after a public outcry. The 20-member Heritage Group, which approved the new plans, however, was concerned about the design of the new pews that would replace the old straw chairs. The French Ministry of Culture did not respond to requests for comment.

Notre Dame Cathedral was a real Gothic legend, frozen in stone and immersed in the most incredible mysterious stories. Its architecture was truly unique and inimitable. The monumental building adorned the eastern part of the island de la Cité.

In ancient times, a Gallo-Roman temple of Jupiter stood on this site, which was demolished and replaced by the first Christian church in Paris – the Basilica of St. Stephen. And only from 1163 to 1345 they began to build the Cathedral of Notre Dame here. During the French Revolution, the Cathedral was proclaimed the Temple of Reason.

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