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French lawmakers commit to rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris in 5 years

media Workers secure part of the Notre-Dame de París 23 April 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

French lawmakers passed a law on reconstructing the Parisian medieval cathedral Notre-Dame on Tuesday after months of controversy, including what President Emmanuel Macron has called a five-year plan, which is seen as too ambitious for some experts.

"The hardest thing is now ahead of us. We need to strengthen the cathedral forever and then restore it," said Culture Minister Franck Riester after the National Assembly vote.

A portion of the iconic cathedral burned down on 15 April, with its gothic spire, roof and religious artefacts lost forever in the blaze.

Notre-Dame, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the banks of the Seine River, is a key tourist attraction in Paris. Although the square in front of the cathedral and the great church itself is still off limits while under reconstruction, it still attracts visitors who take photos from a distance.

The "aim is to give Notre-Dame a restoration appropriate for the place it has in the hearts of the French people and in the entire world," said Minister Riester.

Opposition MPs objected to a reconstruction process that seemed rushed, maintaining that this five-year plan was being pushed in order to have the cathedral finished by 2024, when Paris hosts the Olympic Games.

"Imposing a deadline of five years from on high makes no sense," said Republicains party MP Brigitte Kuster.

"We are not confusing speed with hurry," said Riester, adding that the building remained at risk of collapsing in some areas if work was not carried out.

After no consensus on the bill from the Senate and the National Assembly, a modified draft returned to the National Assembly, where 91 lawmakers passed the bill with eight MPs against and 33 abstentions.

Managing the funding

The tragedy of the fire resulted in an outpouring of 850 million euros in pledges from people around the world, corporate donors and private donors in order to fund the restoration.

Although the money was pledged, the Culture Minister said that only 10 percent of the funds have been received as actual donations.

Rival French luxury goods billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 200 and 100 million euros respectively. Their donations will most likely be disbursed in a timely manner.

Ongoing issues

Although this new law will deal with the restoration, it is not tied to a particular design. Macron upset some traditionalists when he suggested that the spire be reconstructed in a more modern way. Others have suggested a glass roof be fitted on the classic cathedral.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that Macron was looking at a "contemporary architectural” design.

City officials are concerned with securing the site and have made the cathedral off limits to tourists due to the above average lead amounts from the destroyed roof.

Construction workers at the site have not begun restoration, but are ensuring that the building that remains is secure, while others are clearing the debris.

The culture ministry says that the vault still could collapse, and that the temporary measures put in place will only last until the autumn. It will be checked by an architect before actual work can begin.

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