The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris went up in flames one year ago Wednesday, devastating one of the world's most remarkable places of worship.
The restoration process hasn't gone according to plan.
While French President Emmanuel Macron almost immediately promised to reopen by 2024, promising to make the cathedral "even more beautiful" in the process, the rehabilitation effort has been stunted by one challenge after another — even before the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reported.
Macron issued a nationwide stay-at-home order on March 16 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The artisan builders who were part of the rebuilding operation were sent home the next day.
Still, French army general Jean-Louis Georgelin, who is in charge of returning Notre Dame to its glory, hasn't lost faith.
“If everyone rolls up their sleeves and the work is well planned, it is conceivable that returning the cathedral to a place of worship within five years will not be an impossible feat,” he told The Guardian. “Obviously, the area around the cathedral will be far from finished, and perhaps the spire will not be completed, but the cathedral will once again be a place of worship and this is our aim."
This isn't the first time that the cathedral's restoration has come to a halt. A toxic lead contamination forced delays last summer, then work was stopped again because of high winds during the fall, The Guardian reported.
It's unlikely restoration will resume any time soon: Macron extended the country's lockdown until May 11 during a national address on Monday, saying that the coronavirus outbreak was "not under control."
The violent fire that engulfed the cathedral on the night of April 15, 2019, burned for hours. Videos surfaced on social media of passersby crying as they watched the church's iconic wood and lead spire burning in flames, then collapsing on one of its rectangular towers.
There was some good news: Firefighters prevented flames from reaching the northern belfry, saving historically significant artifacts and sacred items.
It took more than 100 years to build the predominantly French Gothic cathedral. Days after the fire, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe launched an international competition to design the cathedral's new spire.
"Should we rebuild the spire envisaged and built by Viollet-le-Duc under the same conditions … (or) give Notre Dame a new spire adapted to the technologies and the challenges of our times?" Philippe said.
The country's president suggested a "contemporary gesture."
Georgelin, however, believes that the back-and-forth about the spire's new look could slow the reconstruction process.
“We have to be left to get on with the work and not caught up in the controversies,” Georgelin told L’Express magazine, adding that the quicker the decision is made, the quicker he and his team can focus on the reconstruction.
Notre Dame didn't host Christmas services last year for the first time in more than 200 years amid fears that the cathedral may never recover from the historic fire. But, last week, a group of seven worshipers gathered for a 40-minute Good Friday service inside the cathedral, which is closed to the public.
Contributing: The Associated Press