Since an unexpected fire severely damaged the iconic Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris back in April 2019, restoration work has started and stopped for a number of reasons. First the site needed to be cleared of toxic dust that had potential to be harmful to workers and visitors near the site, then COVID-19 halted progress. But now, renewal efforts are concentrating on the cathedral’s beloved grand organ that was miraculously spared. With nearly 8000 pipes, restoration is expected to take up to four years as the organ is disassembled and cleaned.
With roots that date back to the 15th century, the grand organ has long been celebrated for its incredible sound and impressive size. It survived the French Revolution (when many organs were melted down for weaponry) and WWII, and has been renovated by experts many times throughout history in order to stay functional and be upgraded, with a rebuilding by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll taking place in the 19th century.
Thankfully, the organ was spared from unrepairable damage in the fire due to its location. While much of the roof is wooden, the organ’s location at the front of the cathedral beneath a stone overhang meant that flames did not reach it. There was, however, extensive damage caused by dust and water from the fire hoses however, and experts have said that each and every pipe will need to be cleaned individually over the next four years.
According to The New York Times, one of Notre Dame’s three main organists Vincent Dubois was informed of the fire by text message in 2019, but was elated to hear that the organ was spared. The fire caused a reported 440 tonnes of lead inside the 850-year old roof to melt, along with scaffolding that had been in place adhering to the roof. In June the Cathedral’s plaza opened to the public following extensive cleaning by a team of workers.