In Paris, the work of architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc is no more, swept away by a violent fire which we do not yet know the origin. Castles, religious buildings, hotels de ville, this man was born on 27 January 1814 has dedicated his life to renovate a multitude of medieval monuments and to give life to pursue his own projects. To give back to Our Lady its arrow at the crossroads of the transepts of the cathedral of Paris is part of its work sites the most well-known.

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he Is accused of betraying the work of his predecessors by imposing his own style. “To restore an edifice is not to maintain it, repair it or remake it, it is restore it in a complete state that may never have existed at a given time”, she defends it. This sentence is going to be at the origin of a disagreement between the architect and the schools of restorations.

Among the achievements of the architect, Notre-Dame de Paris remains one of the most controversial. He pushed the back of the arrow that had disappeared from the memory of Parisians. In their book of hours for the duke of Berry, the illuminators considered, the brothers Limburg, the watch in the Fourteenth century in one of the boards, The meeting of the magi. We see the spire of Notre-Dame in the background as well as that of the Sainte-Chapelle.

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But the model who will inspire Viollet-le-Duc is one of the Orléans cathedral (dating from the early Nineteenth century), and not those of the Thirteenth century. After the French Revolution, the cathedral was dilapidated. Until then entrusted to the architect Godde, the restoration of the building passes into the hands of Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc . From 1844 to 1864, all efforts will be made to restore the reputation of one of the highest places of christendom. The west facade is resumed, the flying buttresses are renovated, the chimeras of the towers changed and the new arrow is drawn. The work of the arrow are significant, and require a recovery in the depth of the trusses of the roof.

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and the construction of the spire in 1860. Rue des Archives/RDA / © Granger NYC/Rue des Archives

Before tackling Notre-Dame, Viollet-le-Duc was gone in march 1836 in a study tour of 18 months in Italy to look at the medieval architecture. On his return, he entered the Council of civil buildings, an organization composed of the most eminent members of the architectural landscape of the French.

In 1840, Eugène Viollet-le Duc is an attack on the basilica of Vézelay, at the request of Prosper Mérimée became inspector of historical Monuments. This first restoration is part of a long series of buildings of which the architect is responsible. Follow the restoration of the cité of Carcassonne, the cathedral of Notre-Dame of Amiens, the archetype of the classical gothic style, but also those of the castles of Pierrefonds, and Roquetaillade. With Our-Lady of Paris, he signed the project of a life faithful to the romantic vision that was Victor Hugo: “each face, Each stone of this venerable structure is a page not only of the history of the Country but also of the history of science and art… Everything is melted, combined, amalgamated in Notre-Dame. This central church and, in turn, is among the old churches of Paris, a sort of Chimera; it has the head of one, the members of the former, the rump of another, something of all.”

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