Jean-Louis Georgelin, ‘architect of Notre Dame’s rebirth,’ dies during hiking trip


Jean-Louis Georgelin, former chief of staff of the armies and CEO of the public establishment in charge of the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, waits for the delivery by barge of the timber truss to the cathedral during its restoration in Paris on July 11, 2023. / Credit: STEFANO RELLANDINI/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 21, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

The military general and leader of the project to restore Notre-Dame de Paris following its devastating 2019 fire died while hiking in the Pyrenees mountains on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on X (formerly Twitter) that French army general Jean-Louis Georgelin’s death meant “the nation lost one of its great soldiers” and “one of its great servants,” while Notre-Dame had lost “the architect of its rebirth.”

The general’s death was reported by French global news channel BFMTV as having been confirmed by the news agency Agence France-Presse.

Macron had appointed Georgelin to the role shortly after the fire, in April 2019.

Georgelin in 2021 was confident that the restoration would be able to meet Macron’s proposed five-year working schedule. “The deadlines will be met!” he said that year during a media interview. The cathedral is scheduled to be reopened in 2024.

Notre Dame was undergoing repairs in April 2019 when the fire broke out from what investigators said was likely an electrical short-circuit or possibly a worker’s cigarette.

The fire destroyed the building’s 1859 spire and most of the church’s roof, with some of the building’s walls suffering significant structural damage.

Debate immediately began as to whether the cathedral would be restored as it looked before the fire or if it would be updated with modern architectural designs and flourishes atop the ancient portion of the church.

The French Parliament subsequently enacted a law mandating that the reconstruction must “preserve the historic, artistic, and architectural interest” of the original structure.

The cathedral’s origins stretch back to the 1160s, when workers began construction of it under Bishop Maurice de Sully. The first primary phase of construction lasted roughly a century, until 1260.

As the mother church of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre Dame is home to the “cathedra” of the Parisian archbishop, currently Laurent Ulrich.

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