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’60 Minutes’ honors Notre Dame on 4-year anniversary of fire

60 minutes, Notre Dame Art Restoration

60 Minutes | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 04/15/23

While the famed French monument will not be opened in time for the Olympics, this status report raises hopes that Notre Dame will soon thrive again.

As we mark the four-year anniversary of the fire that devastated Notre Dame de Paris, a new 60 Minutes report is highlighting how far the restoration process has come.

The news program’s inside look at the cathedral shows the dedication of the more than 1,000 workers who have put their skills toward the rebuilding effort. While it has already been announced that the reopening of the cathedral will be too late for the 2024 Olympic Games to be held in Paris, the footage raises hopes that Notre Dame may soon stand as it did for centuries. 

The 60 Minutes feature begins with footage of the historic fire, which tore through Notre Dame on April 15, 2019. Shots of the iconic 200-foot spire crumbling into the gutted church continue to evoke strong emotions from the French people and worldwide. French army General Jean-Louis Georgelin recalled to 60 Minutes’ Bill Whitaker the moment the spire fell: 

“Everybody stopped,” Georgelin said, describing what went on in his home country. “And a lot of people in France cried because they feel that something very deep in the soul of France and the spirit of France was about to collapse.” 

As the dreadful scenes of emergency workers fighting the blaze move to more recent footage of the restoration process, viewers are introduced to Philippe Villeneuve, chief architect of Notre Dame and the man overseeing the entire restoration. Villeneuve is the one who convinced French authorities to rebuild Notre Dame exactly as it was, rather than add any modern elements to its famous design. For him, the reconstruction of Notre Dame is a very personal endeavor: 

“I think in reality I am totally destroyed,” Villeneuve said, emotion welling in his eyes, “I so want to rebuild Notre Dame, because I want to rebuild myself.”

As the report continued, viewers got an inside look at the sculptors who are working to recreate historic sculptures that were damaged beyond repair in the fire. They explain that not only do the workers try to recreate the statues by eye, but also by feel. In order to get the exact same slopes and curvatures, they place their hands on the original artworks, which gives them a sense of how the new works should feel under their hands. 

60 Minutes’ report is a wonderful, albeit emotional, tribute to France’s historic monument church that reminds of the tragedy that befell Notre Dame just four years ago, but raises hopes for a fast approaching future where it is vibrant with visitors and the Catholic Mass once more. With the spire planned to be raised by the end of 2023, this future seems closer than ever. 

Read more at CBS News. 

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