SHARE
COPY LINK

CULTURE

Redesign of France’s most famous cathedral up for vote

Critics have said that the proposed redesign of the interior of Paris' Notre Dame cathedral, which includes mood lighting and street art, would turn it into a "Disneyland".

Paris' Notre Dame cathedral was badly damaged in a fire in 2019. Plans to redesign the interior have proved controversial.
Paris' Notre Dame cathedral was badly damaged in a fire in 2019. Plans to redesign the interior have proved controversial. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

A controversial redesign of the interior of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris — including possible street art installations and softer mood lighting — will be considered by heritage authorities on Thursday.

Church authorities are adamant the plans — part of a wider rebuilding project following a devastating fire in 2019 — are not revolutionary and will simply offer visitors a warmer welcome.

But the prospective changes have already sparked criticism, with around 100 public figures putting their names to an opinion piece in right-wing newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday saying they “entirely undermine the decor and religious space” of the Gothic landmark.

Twenty experts are meeting on Thursday at the National Heritage and Architecture Commission to hear the presentation by the church authorities, with a vote due later in the day.

There was worldwide shock over the fire of April 15, 2019 that destroyed much of the roof and spire of Notre-Dame, which is visited by some 12 million people a year.

The diocese is taking the opportunity to rework the interior ahead of its planned reopening in 2024.

The culture ministry confirmed to AFP that street art pioneer Ernest Pignon-Ernest, as well as other modern artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois, are among the names being considered for display when new art installations replace some of the little-used 19th-century confessionals.

 “Disneyland”?

Other ideas include Bible quotes to be projected in multiple languages on the walls and softer lighting.

One Paris-based architect told The Art Newspaper that this risked turning Notre-Dame “into Disneyland”.

Those concerns were knocked back by Father Gilles Drouin, who is in charge of the interior renovation and told AFP last week that there was nothing radical in the plans.

“The cathedral has always been open to art from the contemporary period, right up to the large golden cross by sculptor Marc Couturier installed by Cardinal Lustiger in 1994,” he said.

The altar will remain in place, but other items such as the tabernacle and baptistery will be rejigged, while most of the confessionals will move to the first floor, leaving only four in the main section.

Side chapels, which were in a “terrible state” even before the fire, will be entirely renovated with a focus on artworks including “portraits from the 16th and 18th centuries that will be in dialogue with modern art objects,” Drouin told AFP.

Critics in Le Figaro called for the authorities to respect the work of Viollet-le-Duc, the architect who overhauled the 12th-century cathedral in the late 1800s, though in keeping with the Gothic style that was enjoying a renaissance at the time.

The heritage commission will look at whether the plans are legal and, for certain choices, “reversible”, according to its presiding senator Alberic de Montgolfier.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

SHOW COMMENTS