Notre-Dame Cathedral “will be closed for five to six years” as it recovers from Monday’s devastating fire, its rector has said.
Bishop Patrick Chauvet made the admission as he spoke to local business owners two days after a blaze that sent its 300-foot spire crashing through its famous ceiling and left it minutes from total destruction.
The cleric said “a segment of the cathedral has been very weakened” by the fire, but did not say which section he was talking about.
He also said it was unclear what the church’s 67 employees would be doing in the future.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron has said he wants it rebuilt within five years and prime minister Edouard Philippe has launched a competition for international architects to restore the spire of the Paris landmark.
Mr Phillipe, speaking after a special Cabinet meeting focusing on the reconstruction of the cathedral, said the competition is aimed at “giving Notre Dame a spire adapted to techniques and challenges of our times.”
He called it “a huge challenge, a historic responsibility.”
The competition, he said “will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even recreate the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc. Or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre-Dame with a new spire.”
There is no clear idea of the total cost of the renovation work, but hundreds of millions of euros have been pledged to repair the iconic Gothic landmark, boosted by promises of financial and expert help made by tycoons and international firms.
Notre-Dame was within “15 to 30” minutes of complete destruction during Monday’s fire, according to junior interior minister Laurent Nunez.
Investigators trying to discover the causes of the fire have not been able to enter the oak-framed structure because it is still unsafe, the Paris prosecutor’s office has said.
They spoke to around 30 witnesses on Tuesday, including employees of companies involved in the church’s restoration and security personnel.
Work to gain access to the burned-out building is underway.
Firefighters have been using a crane to hoist supports to stabilise a fire-ravaged pinnacle that houses one of the cathedral’s historic rose stained-glass windows.
There was no immediate danger that the centuries-old structure would collapse but statues were also being removed.