'As if Disney Were Entering Notre-Dame': Critics Blast Cathedral's 'Woke' Rebuilding Plan - Report
© AP Photo / Thibault CamusI this May 31, 2020 file photo, people walk on the forecourt of Notre Dame's Cathedral, in Paris.
© AP Photo / Thibault Camus
The fire on April 16, 2019, seriously damaged the famous Gothic cathedral, with images of flames consuming the roof and toppling its 19th-century spire shocking the world. French President Macron said earlier that the cathedral is expected to open again in 2024.
Several critics have warned that plans to radically alter the interior of the medieval cathedral and symbol of Paris will convert the world-famous Notre-Dame de Paris into an "experimental showroom," The Telegraph reported on Friday.
According to the report, citing reconstruction plans obtained by the outlet, the fire-ravaged cathedral risks imitating a "politically correct Disneyland," as confessional boxes, altars, and classical sculptures will be replaced with modern art murals and new sound and light effects to create "emotional spaces" under the proposed alterations.
There will reportedly be themed chapels on a "discovery trail," with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, and Bible quotes in several languages, including Mandarin, will be projected onto chapel walls. Moreover, the trail's last chapel will place a heavy emphasis on the environment.
"It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame," Maurice Culot, a prize-winning French architect, urbanist, theorist and critic is quoted in the report as saying. "What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place."
Also, an undisclosed senior source close to the renovation reportedly stated that the plans risk turning the cathedral into an "experimental showroom," mutilating the work of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the celebrated architect who restored the cathedral following the French Revolution's ravages in an attempt to recapture the spirit of Medieval Christianity.
"Can you imagine the administration of the Holy See allowing something like this in the Sistine Chapel?” the source said. "It would be unimaginable. We are not in an empty space here."
The source emphasized that the current plan is "political correctness gone mad."
"They want to turn Notre-Dame into an experimental liturgical showroom that exists nowhere else whereas it should be a landmark where the slightest change must be handled with great care," they added.
According to the report, the parts of the cathedral that were damaged by the fire will be meticulously restored to their original state, especially the 19th-century spire, which was completely destroyed in a fire two years ago. However, other areas that were relatively unaffected by the accident will be drastically altered under the new designs.
Too Many New Architectural Ideas for a Reconstruction
The outlet recalled that at first, then-French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that he would hold an international competition to replace the roof and spire, maybe with a modern design "that bears the mark of our time." The contest was canceled, however, after considerable outrage because of some architectural whimsy, including one that included a swimming pool.
As a result, the spire, roof, and medieval wooden beams will all be reconstructed as closely as possible to the original designs.
This June, meanwhile, Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit reportedly claimed that the interior renovation plans will "bring the cathedral into the 21st century while preserving its own identity in the spirit of the Christian tradition." And those plans were reported to look to the future rather than the past.
Visitors will enter through the main entrance and are expected to be led to 14 themed chapels illustrating Genesis, Abraham, Exodus, and the Prophets, as well as the five continents, according to the Telegraph. While Africa and Asia will take center stage, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania will be either barely visible or completely absent behind the apse. The journey concludes at a chapel dedicated to "reconciled creation," i.e., environmentalists as defined by Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'.
A worldwide outpouring of emotion saw 340,000 contributors pay €833 million to the renowned structure's restoration, according to The Telegraph's estimates. By September, €165 million had been spent on protecting the cathedral, which had suffered structural damage during the fire. Phase one of the restoration work will be funded by a second contribution of €262.6 million.