A cyclist ride his bike over the Pont de l'Archeveche (Archbishop's Bridge), past the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, on April 14, 2021, during the reconstruction work
A cyclist ride his bike over the Pont de l'Archeveche (Archbishop's Bridge), past the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, on April 14, 2021, during the reconstruction work Copyright Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Two years of work to restore Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral | In pictures

By Natalia Liubchenkova
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Two years on from a devastating blaze, much work has been done to restore Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to its former glory. But much more is still needed.


Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the most iconic landmarks of the French capital, looks peaceful today: the new scaffolding and building cranes that surround it give Parisians and millions around the world cause to celebrate the renewal of the more than 850-year-old monument.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, on April 14, 2021, during the reconstruction work following the devastating fire two years ago. Paris, FranceAnne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

The picture of the Cathedral on this chilly spring day is in big contrast to the heartbreaking picture the landmark made two years ago. On the evening of April 15, 2019, its roof and iconic spire were consumed by fire, shocking Parisians and the world, as the incredible efforts of the French firefighters were broadcast live around the globe.

Fouad Maghrane/AFP
Bystanders look on as flames and smoke billow from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. April 15, 2019Fouad Maghrane/AFP

France held its breath while the damage was assessed and donations poured in. The authorities promised the imminent restoration and gave emotional speeches to support the nation in mourning of its iconic landmark.

It was clear then that the way ahead would be long, and the dangerous and meticulous work carried out on site, in laboratories and even forests around the country provide a fuller picture.

Browse through this selection of photographs to see what has so far been achieved in the enormous efforts to rebuild the beloved monument over the past two years.

Philippe Wojazer/AFP
Flames and smoke are visible as the interior of the Notre-Dame Cathedral continues to burn on April 16, 2019Philippe Wojazer/AFP

To start the restoration process, work had to be done to clean and secure the site. One of the main consequences of the fire was the loss in structural stability due to the collapse of its roof. The limestone absorbed water used in extinguishing the fire, while some of the stonework has been damaged by the flames.

An interior view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. April 16, 2019AFP
April 16, 2019. Amaury Blin/AFP
A worker in a hard hat bows his head as he sits among debris inside the Notre-Dame-de Paris Cathedral in Paris, a day after a fire that devastated the buildingApril 16, 2019. Amaury Blin/AFP

One of the biggest challenges was to resolve the problem of the scaffolding that had been installed to restore the building's spire, and was damaged during the blaze. It was successfully removed a year later.

New scaffolding was constructed simultaneously to access the parts of the cathedral that needed to be dismantled or repaired.

Stephane de Sakutin/AFP
Parts of a destroyed ribbed vault and scaffolding are seen during preliminary work in the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral three months after a fire in Paris. July 17, 2019Stephane de Sakutin/AFP

Much work has had to be done to ensure that other parts of the building do not collapse, including removing the statues that were taken down from the north, south and west gables.

Robots have helped technicians clean the rubble inside Notre-Dame due to the risk of further collapse. All the remaining debris - mainly wood, metal, stone and gravel - was carefully checked and marked by experts before it was removed from site.

Teams worked to remove the debris from the top of the cathedrals vaulted ceiling. This includes charred remains of the wooden frame and lead from the roof which melted during the fire.

Martin Bureau/AFP
Workers on the roof of Notre-Dame work to remove the burnt scaffolding which hampered the safety of the cathedral damaged by the April 15, 2019 fire in Paris, FranceMartin Bureau/AFP

The cathedral was reinforced and supported with wooden decking between the gutter walls. Twenty-eight temporary wooden bracings were built under Notre-Dame's iconic flying buttresses, which are a form of structural support that is common in Gothic architecture.

Thomas Samson/AFP
A worker works on a wooden consolidation of a flying buttress at the Notre-Dame cathedral after it was partially damaged in the blaze. June 9, 2020, in Paris, FranceThomas Samson/AFP
Martin Bureau/AFP
Workers on a crane look at the burnt woodwork of Notre-Dame cathedral damaged by the April 15, 2019 fire on November 24, 2020 in ParisMartin Bureau/AFP
Martin Bureau/AFP
Workers on a crane look at Notre-Dame cathedral, damaged by the April 15, 2019 fire. Paris, France. November 24, 2020Martin Bureau/AFP
Martin Bureau/AFP
The crossing of the transept of Notre-Dame cathedral during reconstruction works. November 24, 2020Martin Bureau/AFP
Martin Bureau/AFP
The statue of archbishop Cardinal de Noailles in Notre-Dame cathedral visible during the reconstruction works in Paris, France. November 24, 2020Martin Bureau/AFP
A grab from a video recorded by AFP shows builders working on the restoration of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Paris, damaged by the fire. April 9, 2021ANTOINE BOUTHIER/AFP or licensors

The first of about 1,000 oak trees chosen to reconstruct the destroyed Notre Dame's spire were felled in the Forest of Bercé in the Loire region. These century-old trees will have to be left to dry for up to 1,5 years before they can be used for this important mission.

March 8, 2021. Jean-Francois Monier/AFP
A lumberman climbs on a tree as he works on the felling of eight 230-year-old Sessile oak trees selected to be used in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris.March 8, 2021. Jean-Francois Monier/AFP
Martin Bureau/AFP
Paris Cathedral's rector Patrick Chauvet visits Notre-Dame on November 24, 2020 during reconstruction works. Paris, FranceMartin Bureau/AFP
Francois Mori/AP Photo
Glass specialist Claudine Loisel checks the Notre Dame cathedral's stained-glass windows in a lab at Champs-sur-Marne, west of ParisFrancois Mori/AP Photo

All of the remains removed from the top of the cathedral's vaulted ceiling as well as from different parts of the building were sorted in large tents at the foot of Notre Dame. Meanwhile, scientists in laboratories are using the recovered objects as key clues to find the best and safest way to restore the interior of the monument This work is scheduled to start by the end of 2021.

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