Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 14 June |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Francisa de Paula de Jesus Isabel
home iconNews
line break icon

These carpenters show off medieval techniques for building Notre Dame’s new roof

notre dame roof

Sameer Al-DOUMY | AFP

John Burger - published on 09/21/20 - updated on 09/21/20

Artisanal carpenters demonstrate how the cathedral's roof was first put together centuries ago — and how it can be done once again.

The “forest” of Notre Dame will yet grow again.

The devastating April 15, 2019, fire in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris destroyed the church’s roof structure, known as the “forest” because of the great oak beams that held up the roof. Some speculated that the 800-year-old cathedral could never be the same because of the scarcity of trees big enough in France to produce such timbers.

But a demonstration in front of the cathedral on Saturday, in which artisanal carpenters fashioned a truss out of recently felled oaks, gave hope that such a project may yet be possible.

Using medieval saws and axes, members of Charpentiers sans Frontieres — Carpenters Without Borders — hand-hewed oak lumber into precisely-measured beams and fitted them together in the triangular form needed to support Notre Dame’s roof. The demonstration was part of a public celebration of European Heritage Days.

The group, which felled the trees themselves, put on a fascinating show, but it is not yet known what technique will be used to create and install the wooden trusses, the Associated Press pointed out.

But the demo showed that the decision to replicate the cathedral in its original form was the right one, said Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the cathedral’s reconstruction.

“It shows … firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Georgelin told the Associated Press. “Secondly, it shows us the … method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”

Read more:
Notre Dame will be restored to exactly the way it was

The carpentry might turn out to be the easy part, compared to what must support the trusses.

“We have the wood. We know how to do it,” Philippe Gourmain, a forestry expert working on the cathedral project, told AP. “The big issue is regarding the stone.”

The wire service explained that some stones were damaged by the fire and “it’s not so easy now” to find similar stone, Gourmain said.

To get a flavor of what went into the building of Notre Dame’s roof, some eight centuries ago, check out this video.

Notre Dame
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
Miracle prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
Philip Kosloski
Offer your heart to Jesus with this prayer
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
The short prayer Pope Francis says every night
Philip Kosloski
5 Things to know about the Sacred Heart feast
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.