Paris, France, May 28, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA) – The French Senate on Monday passed a bill on the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris, the city’s cathedral, adding a clause that it must be rebuilt as it was before last month’s fire which destroyed its roof and spire.
The Senate approved the bill May 27, mandating that the rebuilding be faithful to Notre-Dame’s “last known visual state.”
The government of president Emmanuel Macron had begun an architectural competition to submit a variety of suggestions for the restoration. Macron had called for “an inventive reconstruction” of the cathedral.
The Senate also removed from the bill a clause allowing the government to override planning, environmental and heritage protection, and public tenders regulations, which would have hastened the rebuilding.
It modified a tax break, allowing donations for reconstruction made from April 15, the day of the fire, to be tax-deductible. An earlier version of the bill had allowed only donations made from April 16.
The modifications of the bill made by the Senate mean that it must be reconciled with a version passed earlier by the National Assembly before it can become law.
Since the adoption of the 1905 law on separation of church and state, which formalized laïcité, a strict form of public secularism, religious buildings in France have been property of the state.
A fire broke out in the cathedral shortly before 7 pm April 15. The roof and the spire, which dated to the 19th century, were destroyed. Shortly after midnight April 16, firefighters announced that the cathedral’s main structure had been preserved from collapse.
The major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.
Originally built between the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, the landmark cathedral in the French capital is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, receiving more than 12 million visitors each year.
The cathedral was undergoing some restorative work at the time the fire broke out, though it is unknown if the fire originated in the area of the work.
Officials had been in the process of a massive fundraising effort to renovate the cathedral against centuries of decay, pollution, and an inundation of visitors. French conservationists and the archdiocese announced in 2017 that the renovations needed for the building’s structural integrity could cost as much as $112 million to complete.