In a remarkable display of craftsmanship and dedication, the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral’s fire-damaged roof is underway. Modern-day carpenters have been utilizing medieval woodworking techniques to rebuild the iconic monument, showcasing a profound connection to the past.
Contemporary carpenters’ use of medieval-era skills to reconstruct Notre Dame’s roof presents a fascinating blend of past and present. The carpenters, armed with hand axes, are painstakingly fashioning hundreds of tons of oak beams, mirroring their medieval predecessors’ craftsmanship. As they engage in this process, they are reminded of the carpenters from centuries ago who created similar joints and structures.
The decision to employ hand tools instead of power tools reflects a desire to pay homage to the exceptional skills of Notre Dame’s original builders. While power tools would undoubtedly expedite the work, the choice to use traditional methods ensures the preservation of centuries-old woodworking traditions. Jean-Louis Georgelin, the retired French army general overseeing the reconstruction, emphasizes the intention to restore the cathedral as it was in the Middle Ages.
While adhering to traditional techniques, the carpenters and architects are also incorporating modern technology to meet the stringent deadline for reopening the cathedral. Computer design and other contemporary tools aid in the creation of detailed plans, ensuring precise fitting of the hand-chiseled beams.
The contrast between the technology available to modern craftsmen and their medieval counterparts highlights the remarkable achievements of the past. Peter Henrikson, one of the carpenters, expresses his admiration for the resourcefulness of the medieval craftsmen who achieved such remarkable feats with limited tools and technology.
The timber frame reconstruction reached a significant milestone in May as large portions were assembled and erected in the Loire Valley workshop. This trial run validated the frame’s suitability for its purpose. Unlike in medieval times, the completed frame will be transported to Paris and lifted into position by mechanical crane. Approximately 1,200 trees were felled to provide the necessary materials for the restoration.
Architect Remi Fromont, who meticulously drew the original frame in 2012, emphasizes that the objective is to restore the wooden frame to its original condition. The rebuilt frame, crafted from oak, mirrors the structure from the 13th century. The same tools, including the axes used by medieval carpenters, are employed in this endeavor.
The resurrection of the wooden frame and its eventual return to its rightful place atop Notre Dame Cathedral symbolizes a profound connection to history and serves as a testament to human ingenuity.