16 December 2021, The Tablet

Green light for Church plans to remodel Notre-Dame’s interior

The post-fire renovation will make France’s top monument more understandable to visitors.

Green light for Church plans to remodel Notre-Dame’s interior

Notre Dame in Paris, pictured earlier this month.
Ingus Kruklitis / Alamy

Heritage officials have approved the outlines of Church plans to update the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and use its post-fire renovation to make France’s top monument more understandable to visitors.

The National Heritage and Architecture Commission agreed to switch the entry to the cathedral’s central door, redirect visitors to the north side first and remake the dark side-chapels into a coherent narrative of the Bible and Christianity.

It also agreed to a new altar, pulpit, tabernacle and baptismal font if designed by the same artist.

The commission mostly ignored critics who warned against a “woke Disney revamp” instead of the literal reconstruction they advocated.

The pre-fire interior was itself a nineteenth-century renovation.

“The commission has approved a programme, but not a definitive result,” said commission chairman Albéric de Montgolfier.

“The diocese will now give more precise details.”

Many of the criticised changes, such as projections of Bible quotes on walls or a rearrangement of old paintings, were not permanent and could be left for the Church to decide, the commission said.

The commission baulked at modern stained glass chosen to replace bland nineteenth-century windows but there was no question that Notre-Dame’s priceless rose windows and collection of Gothic glass around the choir had to remain.

Stone statues must stay in their places but the wooden confessionals can be moved, the commission said.

A special central area for worshippers was approved but the type of pews proposed there was criticised.

The commission rejected a special prayer section at the end of the choir, saying it would damage the eighteenth century marble floor there.

Fr Gilles Drouin, head of the archdiocese’s renovation team, said this was normal in such projects.

He added: “The extent of the polemics surprised us a bit but it shows that anything to do with Notre-Dame creates passion.”

Entry by the centre door would stress the beauty of the interior, which would go from gloomy to bright after a thorough cleaning.

Before the April 2019 fire, tourists entered through the western facade’s south door and had to walk to the centre aisle for a full view of the interior. Most entered the ambulatory on its south side, and so followed the medieval carvings there of the life of Jesus in the wrong direction

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