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New controversy at Notre Dame over stained glass replacement

Viollet-le-Duc's stained glass designs in Notre Dame

ninette_luz | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 01/08/24

A petition to keep the original stained glass of Viollet-le-Duc's design has already gained some 127,000 signatures from concerned Parisians.

A new controversy has arisen at Notre Dame de Paris over the announced replacement of six stained glass windows that survived the devastating 2019 fire. The idea of bringing a modern touch to the storied French monument church did not rest well with Parisian citizens, who have banded together to gather some 120,000 signatures in a petition to keep the restoration focused on bringing Notre Dame back to architect Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century design.

According to the French newspaper El País, President Emmanuel Macron made a visit to the cathedral on December 8, when he announced a public competition to find contemporary artists to design new stained glass windows, as well as a new museum that will focus on Notre Dame’s extensive art collection. The competition came in response to a request from Archbishop Laurent Ulrich for the commissioning of “six stained glass windows for the south-side chapels of the nave.”

Viollet-le-Duc's stained glass designs in Notre Dame
A full view of stained glass designed by Viollet-le-Duc.

By December 10, however, historian and journalist Didier Rykner had launched a petition through to keep the original stained glass windows in place. Rykner argued that the stained glass windows were designed by Viollet-le-Duc and are vital to its restoration. Furthermore, the windows in question are located in the southern end of the nave, which was completely untouched by the fire. 

Rykner went on to note that he was not opposed to modern elements incorporated in historic structures, when there is purpose. Here, however, he said that there are no valid reasons for the replacement of these historic windows. He called the windows “an integral part of the architect’s work [that] survived the fire,” and said that to change them “would distort the harmony of light” inside the worship space.

As of the writing of this article, the petition had garnered 127,324 signatures, but Rykner says he does not intend to present the petition to President Macron until it reaches 150,000 signatures. Once submitted, there is no guarantee that the petition will do anything to change the plans for Notre Dame, but previous public outcry against changing the design of the spire led to its reconstruction to the exact specifications of Viollet-le-Duc.

If nothing else, the government will be made aware of the public’s displeasure at the idea of changing any aspect of its beloved Notre Dame.

HistoryNotre Dame
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