“I went out of the Companions of the duty when I learned for Notre Dame. The building, one sees it every day, is well known for timber framing. It will perhaps give us opportunities to work on it”. Roman Legoubé, a young apprentice carpenter 18 years of age for the Companions of the duty, is full of hope after the fire which destroyed the cathedral of Our Lady on 15 April, destroying completely the structure of old oak eight centuries, its roof of lead, and the arrow that peaked at 93 meters. If he grieves the loss of this heritage, he hopes to one day be able to walk on his vaults, trees and rebuild the roof frame, as was done before him, the master-builders of cathedrals. “It would be an accomplishment to be able to say that we have participated in the creation of Our Lady. It remains a historic landmark and very important for France,” he told Reuters.

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“It would be an accomplishment to be able to say that we have participated in the creation of Our Lady,” says Roman Legoubé, 18 years. BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

In the meantime, he must first pass his CAP (certificate of professional aptitude) and is ready for its “minimalism”, plan grandeur nature directed at the ground which will enable him to give body to a wooden structure for his review. This technique, called the “line frame”, which was already used in the time of Our Lady, is classified as intangible heritage of Unesco.

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The Compagnons du devoir, who make up nearly 10,000 young people per year, have alerted the government in the aftermath of the fire on the lack of manpower in the building trades, which could slow down the reconstruction of Notre-Dame. According to the secretary-general, Jean-Claude Bellanger, it already lacks 100 masons, 100 stone masons, 150 carpenters and 200 roofers to meet the demand of the partner companies of the school. “We have well partitioned our skills in the craft areas, the industrial, and the general public no longer knows the business,” he says.

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A model accurate to 1/20th

The government launched last week the “Chantiers de France”, program aimed at bringing together training centres, apprentices and colleges, professional high schools to promote the crafts and involve apprentices in the construction site of reconstruction. A “construction site school” and an information centre should be installed on the parvis of the cathedral during the work to present to young people and their families with the trades concerned, specifies Jean-Claude Bellanger. “It is important to train these young people on this type of work. One teaches but this is knowledge that end up lost, therefore, it is necessary to renew them on a regular basis”, explains Luc Mabire, a journeyman carpenter and a teacher for the Compagnons du devoir.

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“metal resists very badly in a fire, this is not necessarily as well, said Luc Mabire. The advantage is the financial side.” BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

Aware of the importance of this heritage for their profession, the three companions have made in 1969-1970 a model in scale 1/20th of the arrow, the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc had added on the roof of the cathedral in the middle of the Nineteenth century. It sits proudly in the entrance hall of the site for the accommodation of the apprentices, companions in Paris. “It is astonishing, when one sees this kind of monument. The old arrow was distorted because of the wind. It was very abundant in the wood, which assured him a great strength,” says Robin Sfarzosi, a journeyman carpenter.

The debate has now been launched among the experts as to whether it is necessary to rebuild the wood frame, in modern materials such as titanium and less flammable, such as concrete, used to restore the cathedrals of Reims and Nantes. “The metal resists very badly in a fire, this is not necessarily as well”, says Luc Mabire. “The advantage is the financial side.” But because of the money raised to rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris “can be that you can build with noble materials”, he adds.

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in The Middle Ages, the wood was very short,” said the companion, which is why the carpenters is rabattaient on the structures floor. “We can do everything today with the wood, think of structures that are more airy”, he adds, fueling the debate of experts on the new face of the cathedral, which is only just beginning.

The professionals gathered in the Group of companies of restoration of the monuments historiques (GMH) consider it “quite possible” to reopen the interior of Notre-Dame in a period of five years, or even three and a half years to five years, as soon as the vaults will be restored. But they do not think that the work can be completed in this period.