Rorate Caeli

“A New Threat Looms over Notre Dame de Paris: What the Fire Spared, the Diocese Wants to Destroy”: Manifesto Signed by 105 French Cultural Figures

The following manifesto appeared at
La Tribune de l'Art and in the web and print editions of Le Figaro on December 7, in response to revelations that the archdiocese of Paris was pushing for a totally modernized, multi-media, Disney-like renovation of the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral.

On April 15, 2019, the world discovered, stunned and shocked, images of Notre-Dame on fire. While the rubble was still smoking, millions of people, of all nationalities, spontaneously mobilized to collect the money needed to restore the monument. Nearly one billion euros were raised. These donations were declarations of love for Notre-Dame Cathedral. They testified to our confidence in our ability to revive this sublime artistic and spiritual patrimony.

But today, this resurrection is seriously compromised by a project for developing the interior of the monument. The Diocese of Paris wants to take advantage of the restoration project to transform the interior of Notre-Dame into a project that would completely alter the decor and the liturgical space. The diocese believes that the destruction caused by the fire is an opportunity to transform the visitor's perception of the monument, even though the fire was limited to the roof and the spire and did not destroy any of the heritage inside.

These proposed changes affect the furniture, lighting, and circulation. The authors of this project are seeking to set up another route, another experience of the monument, even though Notre-Dame already offers a route, it is already a discourse. To take just one example, the organization conceived by Viollet-le-Duc is based on a principle of gradation of spaces that already existed at the end of the Middle Ages and that he restored. The first chapels have a summary decoration to allow a progressive rise towards the splendour of the choir. And so on. Everything was skilfully thought out and arbitrated.

But what the diocese envisions today reduces to nothing the conception patiently elaborated by Viollet-le-Duc. The project foresees the installation of removable benches, lighting that changes according to the seasons, video projections on the walls, etc. — in other words, the same fashionable (and therefore already terribly outdated) "mediation devices" that can be found in all "immersive" cultural projects, where often the silliness rivals the kitsch.

However, this tragic fire offers us an exceptional chance, an absolutely unique opportunity: the restoration of Viollet-le-Duc's decor. We are indeed in a position to bring back to life a coherent set of decor of great formal perfection. The brilliant architect, anxious to prolong and complete the work of the builders of the Middle Ages, had conceived a total work of art, matching architecture and decoration, painting and sculpture, cabinetmaking and goldsmithing, stained glass and lighting. Guided by a very precise vision of an artistic and spiritual ideal, he had elaborated and implemented the cathedral of cathedrals.

Let us respect the work of Viollet-le-Duc, let us respect the work of the artists and craftsmen who worked to give us this jewel, let us simply respect the patrimonial principles of an historic monument. This restoration project must allow us to rediscover the authenticity of the place and its experience, by placing the right works in the right places, in harmony and coherence.

France will be admired by all for having been able to carry out a restoration that will give back to the world a sublime monument. Our architects, our restorers, and all the craftsmen will have thus, in the words of the President of the Republic, made Notre-Dame more beautiful than before the fire — that is to say, as sublime as it was bequeathed to us.


Jean-Claude Allard, General (2S)

Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, Honorary Director General of the Château and Estate of Versailles and the Trianons, former head of mission for art history at the Académie de France in Rome, Villa Médicis.

Gérard Audinet, General Curator of Heritage

Pascal Avot, communication consultant

Françoise Baligand, honorary chief curator of heritage in charge of the conservation of religious heritage in the city of Douai

Stéphane Bern, television presenter, heritage advocate

Bernard Berthod, curator of the Fourvière Museum, emeritus consultant of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church

Sami Biasoni, Doctor of Philosophy, Essayist

Guillaume Bigot, General Director, IPAG Business School

Françoise Boudon, Architectural historian

Marion Boudon-Machuel, Professor of modern art history, University of Tours/CESR

Michel Bouleau, honorary administrative magistrate

Christophe Boutin, Professor of public law at the University of Caen

Jean-François Braunstein, Professor of philosophy at the University of Paris 1 Sorbonne

Jean-Marie Brohm, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Montpellier 3

Belinda Cannone, writer

Maria Teresa Caracciolo, honorary researcher at the CNRS, University of Lille 3, president of the association Cahiers d'Histoire de l'Art

Sébastien Celeri, heritage architect

Jean-Loup Champion, art historian, editor, sculptor

Élie Chouraqui, filmmaker

Maurice Culot, architect, author, publisher of architectural books, 2019 winner of the American Driehaus Architecture Prize

Sara Daniel, journalist, writer

Antoine Daudré-Vignier, architect D.P.L.G

Sophie Defrance, curator for the Romanesque collections, London, British Library

Jérôme Delaplanche, art historian

Damien Delgrossi, heritage conservation officer

Marie-Hélène Desjardins, retired chief curator of heritage

Albert Doja, professor of anthropology, University of Lille

Jean Dupèbe, professor emeritus of universities

Annick Duraffour, associate professor of modern literature

Valérie Expert, journalist

Michel Fichant, professor emeritus, Paris Sorbonne

Alain Finkielkraut, philosopher, member of the Académie française

Jean-Charles Fitoussi, filmmaker

Jacques Foucart, Honorary General Curator of Heritage (Louvre Museum, Department of Paintings)

Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Honorary General Curator of Heritage (Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings)

Angéline Foucray, gilder and ornamentalist

Renée Fregosi, philosopher and political scientist

Véronique Gerard Powell, honorary lecturer, Sorbonne University

Jean Giot, professor emeritus, University of Namur

Monique Gosselin-Noat, professor emeritus, Université Paris-Ouest-Nanterre

Thibaut Gress, former student of the École Normale Supérieure, agrégé and doctor in philosophy, teacher in CPGE

Yana Grinshpun, MCF Sciences du Langage Paris III

Philippe Gumplowicz, professor of musicology

François Hagnéré, Historian of art and architecture

Françoise Hamon, professor emeritus of history of heritage, Paris-Sorbonne

Philippe Hamon, professor emeritus Sorbonne Nouvelle

Hubert Heckmann, lecturer in French medieval literature at the University of Rouen

Philippe d'Iribarne, director of research, CNRS

Pierre Jacky, art historian

Jean-David Jumeau-Lafond, doctor in art history

Benoît Kanabus, doctor of philosophy, lecturer in private law and essayist

Maya Khadra, teacher, journalist

Jean-Pierre Krief, film director

Georges Kuzmanovic, president of Sovereign Republic

Françoise Laborde, journalist, essayist

Claire de Lalande, Curator of Heritage at the Dobrée Museum, Great Heritage of Loire-Atlantique

Hélène de Lauzun, former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de la rue d'Ulm, agrégée and doctor in history.

Thomas Lévy-Lasne, painter

Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet, Professor of public law at the University of Rennes 1

Bérénice Levet, doctor of philosophy, essayist

Alain Lompech, music critic and journalist

Fadila Maaroufi, director of the Observatory of Fundamentalisms (Brussels)

Antonin Macé de Lépinay, collections inspector, Mobilier national

Pierre Manent, philosopher

Aurélien Marcq, senior civil servant

J. Patrice Marandel, Honorary Chief Curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Daniel Marchesseau, Honorary General Curator of Heritage

Isabelle de Mecquenem, professor of philosophy

Alain Mérot, professor emeritus of modern art history, Sorbonne-University

Naïma M'Faddel, essayist, city policy advisor, Knight of the National Order of Merit

Dominique Millet-Gérard, professor emeritus at the Sorbonne

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, journalist

Matthieu Noli, writer

Pierre Nora, historian, member of the French Academy

Hala Oukili, journalist

Bernard Paqueteau, retired lecturer in sociology and diplomat in the field of cultural action

Rémi Pellet, Professor of Law, University of Paris

Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos, director of research at the CNRS

Pascal Prévost, hospital surgeon (retired)

Benjamin Randow, novelist

Olivier de Rohan-Chabot, president of the Sauvegarde de l'Art français

Jean-Marie Rouart, writer, member of the Académie française

François Roudaut, university professor

Catherine Rouvier, Doctor of State in Public Law, Lawyer, University lecturer

Clotilde Roy, art historian

Didier Rykner, editorial director of La Tribune de l'Art

Xavier-Laurent Salvador, lecturer in medieval linguistics

Marc Scherer, State curator of libraries

Damien Serieyx, editor

Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber, composer

Bruno Sire, honorary president of Toulouse Capitole University

Jeremy Stubbs, journalist, essayist and lecturer

Jean Szlamowicz, linguist, university professor

Wiktor Stoczkowski, director of studies at the EHESS

Pierre-André Taguieff, director of research at the CNRS

Pierre Téqui, art historian

André Tiran, professor emeritus, Université Lumière Lyon-2

Gennaro Toscano, university professor

Dominique Triaire, professor emeritus of universities (French literature)

Caroline Valentin, lawyer, essayist and editorialist

Sophie Valles, author

Pierre Vermeren, professor of history at Paris1

André Versaille, writer, documentarian

Marin de Viry, writer

Ibn Warraq, author