The liturgical refurbishment of Notre-Dame will calm the debate

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The Archdiocese of Paris has just announced its plans for the redevelopment of Notre-Dame de Paris, which will be submitted to the CNPA (National Commission for Heritage and Architecture) on 13 July. Fortunately, what is presented is a far cry from the initial proposal, and it seems that the new archbishop, Laurent Ulrich, has succeeded in his bid to find a consensual solution that will not provoke debate among heritage lovers.

1. Axial view of Notre-Dame cathedral with the new layout (in the foreground, Guillaume Bardet’s bronze baptistery, further on Ionna Vautrin’s

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First of all, a very important point: the projections in the side chapels, and the creation of new works that would be installed there, necessarily in competition with those that already exist, seem to have been abandoned. The stained glass windows that the former archbishop wanted to remove had already been saved by the intervention of the Ministry of Culture (one of the few actions of Roseline Bachelot to be welcomed).

2. The bronze ambo project by Guillaume Bardet
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3. The bronze cathedra project by
Guillaume Bardet
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Three artists were chosen to create the new furniture: Jeanne Vautrin, for the chairs, Guillaume Bardet for the liturgical furniture (baptistery - ill. 1, ambo (ill. 2), cathedra (ill. 3), associated seat, altar (ill. 4) and tabernacle, and finally Sylvain Dubuisson for the reliquary shrine to house the Crown of Thorns, the fragment of the wood of the cross and the Passion Nail, in the axial chapel.

4. The bronze altar project by Guillaume Bardet
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Let’s move on quickly to the chairs (ill. 1 and 5): we hear they are comfortable, which is a good point. Aesthetically, they’re not really that interesting, but they’re discreet and no worse than the ones that came before.
Much more interesting is the furniture, which is both discreet and elegant. The artist is not trying to impose himself, to compete with the landmark works already in the cathedral, and that’s fine. The presence of the baptistery in the centre, at the entrance to the nave (ill. 1), may legitimately be questioned, but its design is quite successful and its size not too massive.

5. The chair project by Ionna Vautrin
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6. The shrine-reliquary project
by Sylvain Dubuisson
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On the other hand, the size of Dubuisson’s reliquary shrine (ill. 6) is somewhat excessive. But there is no cause for indignation here either, in our opinion. It simply seems a bit pointless, especially as it comes on top of Marc Couturier’s cross, which was already very bulky, but which since the fire has acquired a status that makes it virtually untouchable (it was the first thing you saw when you entered the building after the disaster).

7. Replacement of the Viollet-le-Duc wooden doors in two chapels dedicated to confession
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It is a shame that Viollet-le-Duc’s choir screen has not been returned to its rightful place (which it had long since lost), nor has the tabernacle created by the architect (especially as the one designed by Guillaume Bardet is not the most successful part). However, two chapels that will be used for confession, the last two on either side before the transept, will have their wooden doors carved from drawings by Viollet-le-Duc, which were removed a long time ago, restored (ill. 7).
Patrick Rimoux, a "light sculptor" (sic), will be responsible for the illumination. It’s hard to say what the outcome will be from the documents provided, but it should be noted that the specifications seem to include "harmonious lighting of the main works housed in the building".

That’s all we can say for now. It’s still just a project, but it’s about time that a little serenity returned to Notre-Dame. This seems to be the choice made by the archbishopric.

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