October 22, 2020

Notre-Dame Cathedral: Volunteer carpenters aim to settle reconstruction debate

Issued on: 09/07/2020 – 17:46Modified: 09/07/2020 – 17:50

A group of volunteer carpenters are hoping to settle the debate over how Paris’s fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral should be rebuilt by constructing a replica of part of the structure’s roof entirely by hand using traditional techniques and materials.


Armed with axes and hand saws, the team of 25 craftsmen and women, who belong to a collective called Carpenters Without Borders, managed to build one of the 25 trusses that made up the wooden roof of Notre-Dame that they say is identical to the original.

“It is a demonstration of traditional techniques on one of the trusses of the framework of the nave of Notre-Dame that serves to show how viable these techniques are from an economic point of view on the one hand and from a technical point of view on the other,” researcher Frédéric Epaud told AFP.

Known as ‘the forest’ and built out of vast oak beams, the 800-year-old intricate wooden lattice of Notre-Dame’s knave was completely destroyed in last year’s fire.

Since then debate has raged over how it should be rebuilt. Some have argued that reconstructing the original roof is impossible as sufficiently old and large enough oak trees no longer exist in France.

Modern alternatives, such as concrete and steel have been suggested. But Carpenters Without Borders say their work proves the roof can be rebuilt in its original form without huge expense.

“We, in less than a week, with 25 professional carpenters, have entirely built one of the trusses of the nave of Notre-Dame as it was before the fire. One truss, one week,” the group’s founder and ethnologist at France’s Ministry of Culture, François Calame, told AFP.

“Of course, there were not only trusses in the Notre-Dame structure, but this provides some answers that immediately dispel all the misunderstandings and misinformation that may have existed.”