In early February, Deputy Mayors of Paris Emmanuel Grégoire and Karen Taïeb announced the plaza outside Notre-Dame Cathedral could potentially open before summer.
The plaza had remained closed in aftermath of the devastating fire amid fears of lead contamination from the damaged roof and spire that would pose a health concern: after the fire, lead levels at the plaza were up to 1300% above safety guidelines, while the surrounding streets were 955% above guidelines.
Since the fire, the Cathedral, plaza, and surroundings streets have had ongoing cleanings to reduce the level of lead pollution in the area stemming from the nearly 300 tons of lead roofing that was consumed in the blaze and spewed into the air.
On Sunday, following the all-clear given by the local health department, tall metal blockades surrounding the plaza in front of the Cathedral were removed to allow visitors to get a little closer to the Parisian icon. Church officials said they “wanted to be able to reopen for the Pentecost celebrations,” given the levels of lead were deemed low enough not to be a risk.
In a visit to the site with Rector Patrick Chauvet, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo said the reopening was “almost a form of rebirth” and a “renaissance of sorts.” She added that “Notre-Dame is the soul of Paris – it’s a site that doesn’t fail to impress you.”
To protect the health of the public, the plaza will continue to “be regularly cleaned” with “samples also taken” to monitor the levels of lead.
As to to the Cathedral it self, it is expected to remain closed to the public for the coming years as the restoration efforts go on. French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed special representative to oversee the restoration efforts, said while the coronavirus pandemic “has unquestionably delayed the work, there’s no reason to believe it cannot be met – we’ll have to find a way to catch up” in order to meet the target reopening date of April 2024.
Click to read more and watch video of two exclusive looks at the undergoing restoration.