Emmanuel Macron has announced he wants to see Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt “more beautiful than before” within five years, but there are warnings that the repairs could take decades and will involve substantial challenges.
The main problems include the sourcing of materials and painstaking work to preserve elements of the church that have survived the fire but might have been badly damaged by it, experts have warned.
Eric Fischer, who heads a foundation restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral that recently underwent a three-year facelift, said he thought rebuilding Notre Dame would probably take several decades.
“The damage will be significant,” Fischer said.
Audrey Azoulay, director-general of Unesco, the UN’ cultural organisation, said restoring Notre Dame “will last a long time and cost a lot of money”.
Donations have poured in from around the world for the restoration efforts, with more than €800m (£692m) pledged as French tycoons and global corporations announced they would donate.
“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome,” Macron said on Tuesday night. “We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.”
French authorities revealed on Tuesday that the cathedral was within “15 to 30 minutes” of complete destruction as firefighters battled to stop flames reaching its gothic bell towers.
A greater disaster was averted by members of the Paris fire brigade, who risked their lives to remain inside the burning monument to create a wall of water between the raging fire and two towers on the west facade.
The revelation of how close France came to losing its most famous cathedral emerged as police investigators questioned workers involved in the restoration of the monument to try to establish the cause of the devastating blaze.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that an initial fire alert was sounded at 6:20pm on Monday evening but no fire was found. The second alert was sounded at 6:43pm, and the blaze was discovered on the roof.
Despite fears at the height of the inferno that the whole cathedral would be lost, the structure appears mainly intact.
Tom Nickson, a senior lecturer in medieval art and architecture at London’s Courtauld Institute, said the stone vault “acted as a kind of fire door between the highly flammable roof and the highly flammable interior” just as the cathedral’s medieval builders intended.
There are fears that the stones of the ceiling and beloved stained glass windows, which survived the blaze, may still have been badly damaged by it. If the stones of the vaulted ceiling have been weakened and cracked by the heat, the whole vault may need to be torn down and re-erected.
The cathedral’s exquisite stained-glass rose windows are probably suffering “thermal shock” from intense heat followed by cold water, said Jenny Alexander, an expert on medieval art and architecture at the University of Warwick. That means the glass, set in lead, could have sagged or been weakened and will need minute examination.
The first challenge for repairers will be to secure the building without disturbing the debris.
“Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organisation Historic England.
Once the building has been stabilised and the damage assessed, restoration work can begin. It is likely to be an international effort.
“Structural engineers, stained-glass experts, stone experts are all going to be packing their bags and heading for Paris in the next few weeks,” Alexander said.
Financial and political considerations, as well as aesthetic ones, are likely to play a part in the decision about whether to preserve the cathedral as it was before the fire, or adapt it.
Getting materials may also be a challenge. The cathedral roof was made from oak beams cut from centuries-old trees, which were difficult to source even in the 13th century. Nickson said there is probably no country in Europe with big enough trees today.
Then there is the question of conforming to modern-day health and safety standards.
The roof of Strasbourg’s Notre Dame was set ablaze during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Nowadays the roof is split into three fire-resistant sections to make sure one blaze can’t destroy it all, with smoke detectors installed are at regular intervals.
“Cathedrals are stone phoenixes reminders that out of adversity we may be reborn,” said Emma Wells, a buildings archaeologist at the University of York.
“The silver lining, if we can call it that, is this allows for historians and archaeologists to come in and uncover more of its history than we ever knew before. It is a palimpsest of layers of history, and we can come in and understand the craft of our medieval forebears.”
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Gbajabiamila Threatens to Report Service Chiefs to Buhari for Shunning Security Meeting
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday, berated the nation’s military Service Chiefs for allegedly refusing to appear before the House to offer explanations on the security situation in the country.
A visibly disappointed Gbajabiamila, who described their action as an insult to the National Assembly, promised to report the matter to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Gbajabiamila noted with dismay that the act of shunning the invitation of the National Assembly by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAF), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, was uncalled for.
The Speaker, who declined to meet with representatives of the Service Chiefs, directed the affected military officers to appear before the House on Monday morning.
He commended the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu; the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi and the Comptroller General (CG) of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, who were present at the meeting.
Gbajabiamila described the conduct of the Service Chiefs as a sad development since all arms of government were supposed to work in unison for the development of the country and the benefit of Nigerians.
He said: “Let me first of all commend Mr President for the commitment he has shown in trying to stem the spate of insecurity in the country. Mr President has to have people he would delegate those powers to as the Commander-in-Chief as dictated by our constitution.
“Mr President has delegated those powers to the Service Chiefs, so we decided to call this meeting, as representatives of the people. Let me commend the Inspector General of Police for being here personally. Let me also commend the DG DSS and the CG Nigerian immigration for being here.
“Let me say, as a House, as an institution, I cannot understate my disappointment or our disappointment that the rest of the Service Chiefs are not here.
“Again, like I said, we called this meeting because it was inevitable. It was important. You can see members from Borno State here. There is a crisis in Borno State right now.
“We wanted to hear from the Service Chiefs to know what was going on, how the House can help and what the problems are as well as what are the challenges; to talk about strategy, to talk about what we need to do.
“I’m sure you really didn’t expect the House to fold its arms while people in Maiduguri and other parts are being killed. There is migration now from local councils in Borno State to Maiduguri. Here we are, we called the Armed Forces coordinated by the CDS, who is not here with Service Chiefs being represented. I’m actually at a loss.
“For me, I believe my colleagues are in tandem with this. The Service Chiefs — the CDS, the COAS, the CNS and the CAS — are not represented as far as we are concerned. I’m sorry, when I said not represented, as far as I’m concerned, the heads are not here, the Service Chiefs are not here. I know one or two of these Service Chiefs were somewhere yesterday night. I am aware of that.
“I can almost say it shows a disdain for this institution. The budget is on its way. Yes, we need to talk about that. What do you need? What is required? I’m almost embarrassed. To tell you the truth. I’m almost embarrassed.”
The Speaker added: “There was no call placed to my office to explain why. I’m just seeing accountants and representatives. So, I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t think this is happening anywhere in any Parliament that I know of in the world, where the head of parliament will call the Service Chiefs for a nagging problem, how to resolve it and you have what we have here as representations.
“So, I think it’s important that we might need to postpone this meeting to Monday morning. I will personally see the President myself. We are supposed to work together as a body, but it shows lack of seriousness apart from the disdain on Parliament. It shows that this is not as serious to the level that we believe it is. Unfortunately, this meeting can no longer hold.”
In his terse remarks, the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, described the development as an insult to his person and the institution of the legislature.
“In strong terms, I condemn those who have deemed it fit not to be here. As far as I’m concerned, as the Chairman of a Committee, I never attended to any agency in the absence of the chief executives and the accounting officers, and I know that these Service Chiefs are the accounting officers in their various agencies. It is our practice, tradition and I am insulted.”
After the remarks, the Speaker postponed the meeting to Monday morning. Present at the session were some principal officers of the House and chairmen of relevant security committees.
FG Slams Sowore with Treason Charges, Accuses Him of Insulting Buhari
The Federal Government on Friday filed seven counts of treasonable felony and money laundering against the Convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and a presidential candidate in the February 2019 presidential election, is charged along with Olawale Bakare, also known as Mandate.
The charges were signed on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), by Aminu Alilu, a Chief State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The charges were filed a day before the expiration of the detention order of the Federal High Court in Abuja permitting the Department of State Service to keep the activist for 45 days.
The detention order elapses on September 21.
In the charges instituted against the defendants, the prosecution accused Sowore and his co-defendant of committing conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of section 516 of the Criminal Code Act by allegedly staging “a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019 aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The prosecution also accused them of committing the actual offence of reasonable felony in breach of section, 4(1)(c) of the Criminal Code Act, by using the platform of Coalition for Revolution, in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, to stage the #RevolutionNow protest allegedly aimed at removing the President.
It also accused Sowore of cybercrime offences in violation of section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, by “knowingly” sending “messages by means of press interview granted on Arise Television network which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It also accused Sowore of money laundering offences in breach of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 by alleged transferring by means of swift wire.
The sums of money he was said to have been involved in the alleged transfers were the sums of $19,975 on April 2, 2019; $20,475 on May 21, 2019, $16,975 on June 27, 2019, and another $16,975 on July 16, 2019.
The DSS arrested Sowore in Lagos on August 2, 2019, following his call for revolution in a protest he organised to take place in some major cities on August 5.
Atiku Breaks Silence, Gives Reasons for Heading to Supreme Court
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 23, 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, on Friday said he would appeal at the Supreme Court the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to ensure that votes of Nigerians count.
In his first official statement after President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress defeated him at the tribunal, he also said he believed he would get justice at the Supreme Court.
Atiku said, “Nothing good comes easy; and hard as the task to rid Nigeria of the forces of fascism and be an instrument for the full restoration of the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria is, your support makes the struggle worthwhile.
“I owe so much to this great land of Nigeria that took me from the streets of Jada, where I sold firewood to the heights I have attained, by God’s benevolence, in the civil service, in corporate Nigeria and in public service.
“If I do not play my part in making it possible for other orphaned children, indigent youths and the less privileged, to replicate and even surpass my path to significance, I would have failed my maker. If I do not ensure that the ladder I climbed remains accessible to those at the bottom, middle and top tiers of society, I would not have fulfilled my purpose.
He added, “And only by ensuring that democracy is not just done but seen to be done can Nigeria and Nigerians have a sense that this dear land is indeed a land where unity, faith, peace and progress reside.
“Yes, those who do not want this as Nigeria’s reality will use every trick in the book to undermine, discourage, misinform and mislead, but with God’s help and the support of Nigerians, we will ensure that Nigeria makes a course correction away from tyranny and towards democracy.
“We must return to being Africa’s bastion of democracy, where the rights to freedom of speech and freedom after the speech are guaranteed. We must stand together to pursue this just cause all the way, so that our judiciary is not afraid to do its job and has to be wary of blackmail, intimidation and victimisation.”