Macron hopes to rebuild Notre-Dame in 5 years, but experts estimate decades
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French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral "even more beautifully" within five years, while some experts said it could take decades.
Parisians and people around the world watched in horror on Monday as flames ripped through the roof of the beloved 850-year-old Gothic cathedral, causing the spire and most of the vaulted roof to collapse.
An unknown number of artifacts and paintings have been lost. The main organ, which had close to 8,000 pipes, has also suffered damage.
But its walls, bell towers and the most famous circular stained-glass windows at France's most visited tourist attraction remain intact.
Rescuers formed a human chain at the site of the disaster to evacuate as many artifacts as possible, which were then stocked temporarily at the Paris town hall.
A priest seen wiping the Crown of Thorns, a relic believers say is from the crucifixion of Christ, and one of the most famous items saved at Notre-Dame. /AFP Photo

A priest seen wiping the Crown of Thorns, a relic believers say is from the crucifixion of Christ, and one of the most famous items saved at Notre-Dame. /AFP Photo

The Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, was saved by firefighters, as was a sacred tunic worn by 13th-century French king Louis IX.
"We will rebuild Notre-Dame together," Macron vowed after assessing the damage, declaring that the disfigured cathedral had been spared "the worst."

Rebuilding time needed uncertain

France has experience in reconstructing cathedrals, including one in Reims that was severely damaged by shelling during World War I and another in Nantes that was gutted by fire in 1972.
Asked how long the rebuild could last, Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral, which recently underwent a three-year facelift, said: "I'd say decades."
"The damage will be significant. But we are lucky in France to still have a network of excellent heritage restoration companies, whether small-time artisans or bigger groups," he told AFP.
The extent of the damage to the interior is laid bare with charred debris lying by the altar area in the aftermath of the fire at the Gothic masterpiece. /AFP Photo

The extent of the damage to the interior is laid bare with charred debris lying by the altar area in the aftermath of the fire at the Gothic masterpiece. /AFP Photo

Fischer said the ability to rebuild the colossal cathedral in a manner that respects its original form and character would depend on the plans, diagrams and other materials available to the architects.
They would need "a maximum of historical data or more recent data gathered with modern technology such as 3D scans" of the kind used in the restoration of the Strasbourg Cathedral, he said.

Global support

The French government's representative for heritage, Stephane Bern, said that money would not be the problem.
Within hours, pledges of donations amounting to nearly 700 million euros (790 million U.S. dollars) had flooded in from some of France's richest families and companies, including French billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, rival high-end designer goods group Kering, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L'Oreal, each pledging 100 million euros or more. 
Support came from outside France as well, including Germany, Italy and Russia which offered expertise. Apple chief Tim Cook announcing the tech giant would give an unspecified amount to help restore a "precious heritage for future generations."
President Emmanuel Macron praised the firefighters and their fellow rescuers for bringing out countless treasures and vowed to have the cathedral rebuilt in five years. /AFP Photo

President Emmanuel Macron praised the firefighters and their fellow rescuers for bringing out countless treasures and vowed to have the cathedral rebuilt in five years. /AFP Photo

Pain spot in rebuilding

A symbol of Paris for close to a millennium, serving as a sanctuary for the hero in Victor Hugo's classic novel "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," the towering house of worship has been in the wars before.
During the French Revolution its treasures were plundered and the figures of kings carved into the stone above its entrance doors defaced.
Deemed unstable, the spire was dismantled in 1792 and the cathedral fell into a state of disrepair until the mid-19th century when architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc gave the famed structure a major makeover.
But the intricate wooden oak frame that held up the roof, the so-called "forest", had stood the test of time since its construction in 1220-1240 – until being consumed by Monday's inferno.
For carpenters, "it's a bit as if the Mona Lisa went up in smoke," Thomas Buechi, head of Charpente Concept which specialises in timber frames, told AFP.
Inspectors inspect the badly damaged roof at Notre-Dame on a day which saw pledges of millions of dollars to restore the iconic site. /AFP Photo

Inspectors inspect the badly damaged roof at Notre-Dame on a day which saw pledges of millions of dollars to restore the iconic site. /AFP Photo

Recreating it will be the trickiest part of the restoration, experts said.
France's top producer of oak said he was worried the country did not have enough of the precious timber for the job.
Sylvain Charlois estimated that around 1,300 oak trees had been used in the construction of the original roof.
"To constitute a big enough stock of oak logs of that quality will take several years," he said.

Tighter deadline needed?

Francois Jeanneau, one of the 40 architects in charge of state monuments, suggested that Paris draw on the example of Nantes Cathedral and build a new "forest" of reinforced concrete.
"The un-initiated can barely tell the difference," he told Le Parisien newspaper.
Passersby streamed to the site the day after the blaze, many of them emotional and laying roses outside. /AFP Photo

Passersby streamed to the site the day after the blaze, many of them emotional and laying roses outside. /AFP Photo

Despite the longer forecasts of decades of work, the rector of Notre-Dame, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said he was hopeful of being back behind the pulpit before he retired.
"I'm 67 now and if all goes well, even if it takes 10 years, I will be 77 and still able to do it," he told France Inter radio.
Jack Lang, who served as a hugely prominent culture minister under late president Francois Mitterrand, called the talk of a decade-long restoration programme "a joke."
"We have to give ourselves a tighter deadline like we have done in the past on major projects."
(Top image: People look at blaze-hit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019. /VCG Photo)
(With input from AFP)