“My feeling today is mainly hope because the cathedral is still there,” Brice de Malherbe, a priest at Notre Dame, told NPR. “We don’t have the blazing flames we had a year ago. Of course, the cathedral is hurt, but it seems nearly serene.”
However, while the extraordinary sound marked the April 15 milestone, the commemoration was also a reminder that the restoration work on the beloved cathedral has since stopped due to COVID-19.
“The restoration of Notre Dame is a symbol of the resilience of our people and our capacity to overcome great trials,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a video address, translated by NPR.
Since the fire, repairs have been arduous and arguments erupted over whether to replace its iconic spire — added on in 1859 — exactly as it was or put something more modern in its place.
And that work has become even harder as France grapples with more than 134,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and a lockdown, extended to May 11, that closed all businesses and barred non-essential workers from leaving home.
Related: Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral Before the Fire: An Unforgettable History in Photos
“The workers were protected from lead, but not COVID-19,” architect Renu Fromont told a French television station, according to NPR. “To impose a 3-meter [9-ft.] distance between people was impossible. And the humidity would make it hard to properly disinfect.”
He said the cathedral’s vaulted ceiling is still in danger of collapsing, weighed down by 300 tons of burned timber and scaffolding.
NPR noted workers were supposed to start cutting debris apart in March, but that was postponed. Motion detectors have now been installed so workers are alerted to any movement.
The cathedral’s plaza, which has been closed to the public and blocked off since the fire, was even set to open as early as this spring, but that too has been postponed due to the public health crisis.