The Local, May 28, 2019
French Senators have stipulated that Notre-Dame cathedral must be restored exactly how it was before the devastating fire that tore through the Paris landmark.
On Monday evening, the French Senate approved the government’s Notre-Dame restoration bill — but added a clause that it must be restored to the state it was before the blaze, striking a blow to the government which had launched an international architecture competition to debate ideas on the restoration.
The subject of the rebuilding of the cathedral — which was left badly damaged after fire tore through the roof and destroyed the spire on April 15 — has become a fraught battleground between traditionalists who want an exact restoration and others who favour a more imaginative take.
Some of the suggestions have included a rooftop garden, an ‘endless spire’ of light and a swimming pool on top of the building.
The Senate has now approved the restoration bill already passed by the French parliament to allow work on the structure to be completed in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024 — but requires that the restoration be faithful to the “last known visual state” of the cathedral, in an attempt to check the government, which has launched an international architectural competition soliciting designs for renovation.
The question of whether Notre-Dame will be restored identically has become a political battleground. French president Emmanuel Macron has called for “an inventive reconstruction”, while Paris’ Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo favors an identical restoration and called herself “conservative” on the subject.
Senators also removed a controversial clause from the law which would give the government the power to override regulations on planning, environmental and heritage protection and public tenders. Many members of the Senate, dominated by the right-wing opposition, have been especially critical of President’s Macron’s promise to finish reconstruction within five years.
The law would enable the government to create an établissement public à caractère administratif (EPA), or public project, to oversee the reconstruction project. This EPA would itself be placed under the authority of the Ministry of Culture, currently directed by Franck Riester.
Another minor modification is the backdating of a proposed tax break for those who have made donations for the cathedral’s reconstruction.
The bill approved by the Assemblée nationale outlines a national subscription project to be put in place in order to manage funds collected, making donations made from April 16th through December 31st eligible for a deduction of 75 percent, up to €1,000. The Senate has pushed the beginning of this period back to April 15th, so that those who made the earliest donations will not be penalised.
Because of the changes imposed, the bill cannot now pass directly in to law, so the Senate and the Assemblée nationale will now attempt to come to an agreement on a version of the bill that will become law.