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Notre Dame says ’15 or 20 years’ needed for restoration

Rector of iconic cathedral, burned out in 2019, says ‘there’s work to do,’ after French President Macron initially set five-year deadline

  • Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit prays during the Washing of the Feet ceremony for Maundy Thursday, in Notre Dame Cathedral, April 1, 2021, almost two years after a massive fire ravaged the Gothic cathedral. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
    Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit prays during the Washing of the Feet ceremony for Maundy Thursday, in Notre Dame Cathedral, April 1, 2021, almost two years after a massive fire ravaged the Gothic cathedral. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
  • In this April 15, 2019, file photo, flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame Cathedral as it burns in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
    In this April 15, 2019, file photo, flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame Cathedral as it burns in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
  • The steeple and spire of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)
    The steeple and spire of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)
  • Fire damage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 16, 2019. (Gigarama.ru via AP)
    Fire damage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 16, 2019. (Gigarama.ru via AP)
  • Flames illuminate the night sky as Notre Dame Cathedral burns, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
    Flames illuminate the night sky as Notre Dame Cathedral burns, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
  • Smoke rises around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral as the fire continued to burn on April 16, 2019 in Paris. (Photo by PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
    Smoke rises around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral as the fire continued to burn on April 16, 2019 in Paris. (Photo by PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
  • Smoke and flames are seen in the interior of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019.  (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
    Smoke and flames are seen in the interior of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
  • Debris inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019, a day after a fire that devastated the iconic building. (Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool/AFP)
    Debris inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019, a day after a fire that devastated the iconic building. (Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool/AFP)
  • Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (Fabien Barrau / AFP)
    Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (Fabien Barrau / AFP)

PARIS — The rector of Notre Dame said Friday that the burned-out Paris cathedral and its esplanade could remain a building site for another “15 or 20 years.”

Rector Patrick Chauvet spoke to The Associated Press following Good Friday ceremonies, including venerating the “Crown of Thorns” at Notre Dame’s temporary liturgical base, the nearby church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.

He added that: “I can guarantee that there’s work to do.”

In the days following the April 15, 2019, blaze that engulfed Paris’ Gothic gem, French President Emmanuel Macron set a five-year restoration deadline for 2024, when Paris is to host the Summer Olympics.

Notre Dame rector Patrick Chauvet, second right, stands as part of the Maundy Thursday ceremony, while cellist Marina Chiche, left, performs in Notre Dame Cathedral, April 1, 2021, almost two years after a massive fire ravaged the Gothic cathedral. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)

But French officials quickly backpedaled Macron’s statement, conceding that it was unrealistic to complete the enormous project by that time.

The blaze also distributed vast amounts of toxic lead from the cathedral’s burned-out roof onto the site and nearby, complicating the clean-up work that came before restoration efforts could even begin.

Works planned include remodeling the cathedral’s esplanade, which before the blaze was visited every year by 20 million tourists.

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