Critics say new church-approved plans for Notre Dame will make the place look like Disneyland


A new tourism-centric proposal to renovate the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral has angered some in France, who say the plan would “Disneyify” the Gothic structure, which was devastated by fire in 2019.

According to a report by the The telegraph of the day, the proposed changes would see the creation of a ‘discovery trail’ inside the medieval building, where the story of the Bible would be told in different languages ​​through a series of chapels, each dedicated to a different international culture. The final leg of the tour would have a “strong emphasis on the environment”, according to the plan.

Meanwhile, altars, classical sculptures and confessionals would be replaced with modern murals and sound and light installations meant to take visitors “from darkness to light”.

The idea, said Christian Rousselot, the director general of the Notre-Dame Foundation, is to “give the keys to the half of the planet which does not know what a cathedral is”.

“This journey going from North to South from shadow to light will describe the great moments of the Bible to explain in the most intelligible way to ordinary people, whether Chinese or Swedish, what all this means”, Rousselot told Telegraph.

“Foreign visitors see signs and beautiful paintings but do not understand anything. Pictures, sculptures and paintings matter, but so do words. It is therefore planned to project on certain words and expressions in Mandarin, French or Spanish, and English.

Rope technicians working to remove the scaffolding of Notre-Dame in June 2020. Photo © C2RMF / Alexis Komenda, courtesy of the Friends of Notre-Dame.

The proposal was presented by Father Gilles Drouin in May during a online conference for the general secretariat of Catholic education in France. Shortly afterwards, he was supported by Michel Aupetit, the Archbishop of Paris, who in June welcomed the project to bring the “cathedral into the twenty-first century while preserving its own identity in the spirit of the Christian tradition”. (Aupetit chose Drouin to design the space.)

However, since its leak, the renovation concept has attracted much criticism. (The Telegraph, a conservative newspaper, denounced the idea, calling it a “waking” overhaul with a “Christianity for Dummies” route.)

“It’s Notre Dame de Paris transformed into Disneyland. It makes no sense, ”said Maurice Culot, Paris-based architect and theorist. The arts journal. “How could a priest choose, on his own, the interior decoration of a cathedral which belongs to the universal heritage of humanity and which is being rebuilt with donations from all over the world?

Drouin’s project will be presented to the National Heritage and Architecture Commission at a meeting on December 9.

While the future of the interior of Notre-Dame remains in doubt, the reconstruction on the 850 year old gothic structure the exterior is now underway, and it is proceeding on a more conventional plan.

Despite the previous announcement of a international architectural competition to redesign the spire of Notre-Dame, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed last year that the the famous feature would be restored to its original condition.

This fall, the task force tasked with restoring the cathedral confirmed he is on track to complete the project by the spring of 2024, just in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

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