The row over how the fire-gutted Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris should be restored has restarted as plans to give the interior a tourist-friendly makeover are emerging.
Confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures are set to be replaced with modern art murals and new light and sound effects designed to create “emotional spaces”, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
Visitors would be led on a “discovery trail” through themed chapels, including one with a strong environmental focus, under proposals seen by the newspaper. As part of the plans, quotes from the Bible would be projected onto chapel walls in various languages, including Mandarin.
Critics claim Disneyfication
Paris’s famous Gothic cathedral was ravaged by a huge blaze in April 2019, leaving it severely damaged and causing the 19th-century spire to collapse.
Following the fire, architects put forward proposals for a modern rebuild, but speculation over the cathedral’s future was ended in May 2019 after president Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the spire would be rebuilt exactly as it had been before the fire.
However, the debate over the most appropriate way to renovate Notre-Dame was reignited last week when reports emerged about the planned revamp of the cathedral’s interiors.
Maurice Culot, a Paris-based architect and critic, told the Telegraph it was “as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame”.
“What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome,” he said. “It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place.”
Maria Luisa Ceccarelli Lemut, a professor in medieval history at Pisa University, told the paper: “One should simply conduct restoration and not choose solutions that could alter the architectural layout or arbitrarily ‘modernise’ the edifice.”
Commission to review plans
The proposed changes relate mostly to parts of the cathedral that were left relatively unaffected by the fire, with the damaged elements still set to be restored to their former state.
Church officials involved in planning the renovation have argued the changes will help explain Christianity to the cathedral’s millions of annual visitors in a more accessible format.
France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission will hear detailed proposals for Notre-Dame’s interior at a meeting next week.
Notre-Dame cathedral, in central Paris, was largely built in the 13th century but underwent a substantial restoration during the 19th century led by architect Viollet-le-Duc.
The main image is by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
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