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France Will Rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral to Its Original Look, Scrapping Plans for Modern Design

After months of debate, the Paris monument will be restored to its 19th-century design.


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It’s been over a year since the world watched in shock as Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral erupted in flames. The fire, that was reportedly caused by “an electrical short-circuit” and tore through the building’s attic for close to half an hour before firefighters showed up at the scene, completely destroyed the 305-foot spire of the 850-year-old cathedral. In the aftermath of the disaster, the French president Emmanuel Macron expressed his desire to give Notre-Dame a “contemporary architectural gesture.” As a result, the government launched an international design competition to refashion the damaged roof and spire. Finally, after months-long debates, President Macron announced that the cathedral will be restored to its original Gothic appearance.

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"The President of the Republic has become convinced of the need to restore Notre-Dame de Paris in the most consistent manner possible to its last complete, coherent, and known state," the Elysée Palace said. It also added that the main outlines of the project have already been approved by the president and the spire will be reconstructed identically.

Unlike the cathedral itself, the spire is actually much “younger.” The original one was removed completely in the 18th century due to extensive damage and replaced in the 19th century by a Gothic design created by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc that was known as “The Forest.” It was constructed by 1,300 oak beams each one milled by hand from a single oak tree.

The goal is for the current reconstruction to be completed in time for the 2024 Olympics that are taking place in Paris.

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Last year’s competition sparked some very interesting design proposals. One of them included a rooftop pool while another one called for the roof and spire to be rebuilt out of Baccarat crystal.

But many officials, including Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo, as well as the majority of the French public were in favor of a reconstruction that would bring back Notre-Dame to its original Gothic appearance.


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