Notre Dame's fire-ravaged roof was reconstructedusing medieval methods. Carpenters in the contemporary day who use techniques from the middle ages are certainly living proof that the opposite is true.
For them, working with hand axes to form hundreds of tons of oak beams for the structure of Notre Dame's new roof has been like rewinding time.
The new roof will be made of wood. They now have a deeper respect for the pioneering architectural work done by their ancestors in the 13th century because of the job that their predecessors did.
If time travel were feasible, the medieval carpenters who built Notre Dame Cathedral would be astounded to learn that the carpentry techniques they pioneered are being utilized again today to reconstruct the roof of the world-famous structure after it was damaged by fire.
One of the carpenters, Peter Henrikson, admits that there are moments when the work is "a little mind-bending."
He claims that there are moments when he is whacking mallet on chisel that he finds himself thinking about medieval counterparts who were carving "basically the same joint 900 years ago." He believes that he finds himself thinking about these medieval colleagues when he is working.
It’s fascinating. We probably are in some ways thinking the same things.- Peter Henrikson
The decision to restore the roof that was destroyed by fire in 2019 using hand tools is one that was made after careful consideration, particularly in light of the fact that using power tools would have unquestionably sped up the process.
The goal is to preserve the age-old technique of hand-fashioning wooden structures using traditional methods while also paying homage to the incredible workmanship of the cathedral's original architects and constructors.
We want to restore this cathedral as it was built in the Middle Ages. It is a way to be faithful to the (handiwork) of all the people who built all the extraordinary monuments in France,- Jean-Louis Georgelin
says Jean-Louis Georgelin, the retired French army general who is overseeing the reconstruction.
Carpenters and architects are employing computer design and other new technology in addition to traditional methods in order to speed up the renovation of the cathedral in order to meet the strict deadline of reopening it by December 2024.
Computers were employed in the process of drafting comprehensive drawings for carpenters, which helped to ensure that the beams that the carpenters hand-chiseled would fit together correctly.
Traditional carpenters had a lot of that in their head. It’s “pretty amazing to think about how they did this with what they had, the tools and technology that they had at the time.- Henrikson
The American, 61, is from Grand Marais, Minnesota. The majority of the other craftspeople working on the timber frame are French.
The roof renovation reached a significant milestone in May, when huge components of the new timber structure were constructed and erected at a workshop in western France's Loire Valley.
The dry run satisfied architects that the frame is functional. The next time it is assembled, it will be on top of the cathedral. Unlike in medieval times, it will be trucked into Paris and raised into position by a mechanized crane. For the project, 1,200 trees were felled.
The objective we had was to restore to its original condition the wooden frame structure that disappeared during the fire of April 15, 2019,- Remi Fromont
says Remi Fromont, an architect who drew comprehensive drawings of the original frame in 2012.
The rebuilt frame is the same wooden frame structure of the 13th century. We have exactly the same material: oak. We have the same tools, with the same axes that were used, exactly the same tools. We have the same know-how. And soon, it will return to its same place. It is a real resurrection.- Remi Fromont