Come 2024, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is expected to open its doors once again. An April 2019 fire devastated the structure, destroying the roof and necessitating an ambitious restoration effort exceeding $1 billion.
While that should be a cause for celebration, not everyone is happy about it. A plan to reimagine the interior of the iconic structure has been met with criticism and opposition from a number of Parisians who believe the effort might “Disneyify” the landmark.
France's National Heritage and Architecture Commission has agreed to move forward with a strategy from the diocese of Paris that would see contemporary artwork put on display in the interior of the building, as well as new lighting effects and projections of Bible quotes displayed on some chapel walls—a departure from the more conservative décor that defined the 850-year-old site for centuries. The plan would also permit over 2000 pieces of furniture to be rearranged so visitors are able to move about more freely.
While the changes might appear subtle, they were enough to stir over 100 art experts and historians to sign an open letter protesting the changes and accusing organizers of using the massive restoration project to install unwelcome changes to Notre-Dame. The alteration, critics said, “completely distorts the décor and the liturgical space” and threatens to echo other cultural renovations where “inanity vies with kitsch.”
The Commission did reject some elements of the proposal, including a request to remove some statues of saints and questioned whether wooden chairs should be replaced with new benches.
With or without mood lighting, Notre-Dame is expected to welcome back the public in time for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics in July. The city plans a massive opening ceremony, including a parade of boats along the River Seine that will pass by Notre-Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.