The Notre Dame de Paris is still in grave danger of collapse, the cathedral monsignor warned reporters Christmas Eve at a nearby church.
“Today it is not out of danger,” Msgr. Patrick Chauvet warned reporters covering a Christmas vigil. “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding. There is still a risk. We can say that there is a 50 percent chance it will be saved, but there is also a 50 percent chance that scaffolding could fall onto the three vaults. So as you can see, the building is still very fragile.”
Notre Dame caught fire in April during renovations. The church was covered with scaffolding for the work, with AP reporting, “some 50,000 tubes of scaffolding crisscrossed the back of the edifice at the time of the fire.” Falling scaffolding poses a serious threat to the already damaged and weakened vaults still managing to hold the walls up.
“We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral,” Chauvet told an Associated Press camera crew. “Once the scaffolding is removed, we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”
Emergency responders were able to save the building from immediate collapse in April, as well as the famous rose window, but damage was extensive and the roof was destroyed.
“The main of the stone vaults that span the interior and form the ceiling of the cathedral nave and the transepts and the sanctuary have remained intact,”cathedral architect and Catholic University of America professor James McCrery told me in April, shortly after the fire. “There is some damage and there is some loss to those vaults. Those vaults were not the roof, they were simply the interior ceiling, but they were made of stone, and because they were made of stone and tied into the side walls of the cathedral, they’re helping to brace those side walls now…. the roof trusses previously did a whole lot of that work.”
Chauvet was saying Mass at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, a 15th-century church just across the Seine River from the 12th century cathedral.
This year marked the first in more than 200 that Christmas worship had not taken place at the cathedral. The previous interruption was during the French Revolution in the late 18th century, when revolutionaries vandalized and desecrated the church, beheaded statues of biblical kings mistaken for French monarchs, replaced many statues of the Virgin Mary with the Goddess of Liberty, and in 1793 rededicated the church to the revolution’s Cult of Reason.
The following year, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of the Supreme Being, a replacement pushed by Maximilien Robespierre, who had the Cult of Reason’s leaders executed. Shortly after, Robespierre was executed, bringing the revolution’s Reign of Terror to a neat end.
“There is heartache because we are used to Notre Dame and the midnight Mass at Notre Dame is extraordinary,” Chauvet told reporters with the Associated Press. “At the same time, it is a celebration of Christmas, it is a celebration of hope.”
Prayers across the world were answered when the walls held, the rose window survived, and Father Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, saved the Christ’s Crown of Thorns, as well as the Blessed Sacrament, from destruction during the blaze. Prayers are still needed.