The accidental death of the “Mr. Reconstruction” of Notre-Dame de Paris has sowed doubt regarding the deadlines for the reconstruction of the emblematic cathedral. But for the executive, as for the people in charge of the construction site, the building will nevertheless reopen on the scheduled date.
The chief architect of Historic Monuments had perhaps not imagined that current events would upset his vacation agenda. However, the accidental death in the mountains, on August 18, 2023, of General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the man chosen by the President of the Republic to lead the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, has caused a significant stir.
Because the loss of the former chief of staff of the armies constitutes a blow for the reconstruction. Indeed, every Thursday, Jean-Louis Georgelin, who led a team of 40 people, reviewed the progress with Philippe Villeneuve, the chief architect, and Philippe Jost, deputy managing director of the public institution, and had lunch with them at the Elysée Palace.
As explained to La Croix by Jérémie Patrier-Leitus, deputy of Calvados, and former director within the public establishment responsible for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame: “Managing the restoration of Notre-Dame required exceptional skills and the ability to carry out complex missions. First of all, directing the public institution created for this purpose.… Then, rigorously planning the site and managing its funding – the 840 million euros in donations.… But especially ensuring a unity of view and command.”
15 months before the reopening, what remains to be done? The month of September should see the arrival of the nave and choir beams which are supposed to provide the building with its ridge height.
With the structure completed, next will come the lead cover for the spire, which is planned for All Saints' Day, a job that is proving tricky: “I could not build scaffolding on the outside; it must rest on the floor of the crossing. The general understood my position and managed to impose this complex technical methodology,” explains the chief architect of Monuments de France to La Parisien.
For its part, the restoration of the interior of the cathedral has begun, with new liturgical furniture, the appearance of which has triggered, among aesthetes and experts, substantial controversy.
A question remains on everyone's lips: to achieve all the objectives in due time, will a successor to General Georgelin be appointed by the Head of State? According to Jérémie Patrier-Leitus, it would seem “incongruous to name another personality (foreign to the existing team) one year before the reopening of Notre-Dame.”
For the deputy, the right arm of the deceased soldier, Philippe Jost, has the material and the skills to become the executive director general of the public establishment. His role is connected with that of the Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, who exercises supervision of the public institution and follows the construction site day by day, and the cultural adviser of the president, Philippe Bélaval, former president of the Center of the National Monuments.
“The deadlines will be met,” assures Philippe Villeneuve, who adds: “We were viscerally, the general and I, braced to respect the schedule. We wanted to follow it, it was a matter of honor.”