The many hands working on Notre Dame
Bt María Díaz Valderrama
Paris, Jul 23 (efe-epa).- The Île de la Cité, home to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral, has changed since the devastating fire in 2019.
It is no longer visited every day by throngs of tourists but rather an army of about 150 workers. They have become local heroes in their quest to salvage the medieval cathedral.
They must juggle a raft of daily tasks. One man scales the vaults of the cathedral attached to a cable while a team of technicians search for a magic formula on how to remove up the burnt remains of the scaffolding scorched in the fire.
The network of scaffolding had been erected for renovation work on the steeple before the cathedral went up in a blaze last year and was left melted and mangled, with some areas threatening to do even more damage to the building.
It’s a daunting, delicate and physically-demanding task that is unfolding amid intense media scrutiny.
Didier Cuiset, director of the scaffolding company Europe Échafaudage, remembers the sleepless nights after the fire.
His team of workers were taking part in the steeple renovations and became a target of public criticism immediately.
His phone didn’t stop ringing, he said, with journalists wanting to know whether his company had anything to do with the blaze.
Cuiset’s voice trails off when he recounts the slew of articles calling his team into question.
“We were all very affected. My boys came to me in tears because some of their schoolmates were telling them their dad had started the fire at Notre Dame,” he says.
The company, which specializes in the restoration of historic buildings, was recruited by the chief architect to help with the new project.
They have since constructed a huge scaffolding frame around the affected part of the cathedral, from which workers are lowered down to carry out recovery work.
The cathedral’s roof was completely destroyed in the fire.
Cuiset’s employees, the majority young men between the ages of 18-25, have already dismantled around 300 tons of the metal structure.
The salvage operation has brought with its share of bad days, too, he says. On Christmas he had a scare when the motion sensor alarm on the scaffolding was triggered and alerted him on his phone.
He says he will sleep peacefully when the structure has been safely dismantled.
“Every night you wake up thinking you have forgotten something that…”
He doesn’t finish his sentence.
The worst nightmare for the workers is that 15 months after the fire, the scaffolding could come down on top of the building.