New Notre Dame Spire Marks Pivotal Moment in Cathedral’s Restoration

 Photograph: Gaspard Flamand/AFP/Getty Images

   The installation of a new golden rooster on Notre Dame, reimagined as a dramatic phoenix with flamed feathers, carries significant symbolism beyond being a mere weathervane atop the cathedral spire. The new rooster symbolizes resilience in the face of destruction after the devastating fire in April 2019. Restoration officials also revealed that an anti-fire misting system is being installed under the cathedral's roof.

Chief architect Philippe Villeneuve, the designer of the new rooster, emphasized that the survival of the original rooster was a beacon of hope amid the catastrophe, signifying that not everything was lost. Describing the new artwork as his "phoenix," Villeneuve highlighted its approximately half-meter length and gleaming presence behind Notre Dame Cathedral in the December sun.

Philippe Villeneuve emphasized the significance of the new rooster, stating, "Since (the fire), we have worked on this rooster, the successor, which carries the flame to the top of the cathedral as it was before, more than 96 meters from the ground. It is a fire of resurrection." He described the design process in lighthearted terms, suggesting it was so intense that he might need to consult his therapist about it.

Before being placed on its perch, the rooster, a symbol of vigilance and Christ's resurrection in French culture, was blessed by Paris Archbishop Laurent Ulrich in a square behind the monument. The term "coq" in French holds emotional significance as it refers to both the national emblem and the Latin word "gallus," meaning Gaul and rooster simultaneously.

Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

During the benediction ceremony for the new rooster on Notre Dame, Archbishop Laurent Ulrich placed sacred relics inside the rooster's breast. These relics included fragments of Christ's Crown of Thorns, along with remains of St. Denis and St. Genevieve, imbuing the sculpture with religious significance.

The Crown of Thorns, considered the most sacred relic of Notre Dame, was swiftly removed after the fire. Brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century, it is believed to have been pressed onto Christ's head during the crucifixion.

Additionally, a sealed tube containing a list of nearly 2,000 names of individuals who contributed to the cathedral's reconstruction was placed in the sculpture, emphasizing the collective effort behind the restoration.

Amid the rooster benediction ceremony, Philippe Jost, Notre Dame's new restoration chief, provided rare comments to the press, detailing pioneering measures taken to safeguard the cathedral against future fires.

Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

Philippe Jost, Notre Dame's restoration chief, highlighted the deployment of innovative fire protection devices at the cathedral, including a misting system in the attics—a first for a cathedral in France. These measures underscore a proactive approach to safeguarding the historic structure.

French President Emmanuel Macron, marking a one-year countdown to the reopening, announced that the original rooster would be displayed in a new museum at the Hôtel-Dieu. Plans to invite Pope Francis for the cathedral's reopening and the installation of the rooster emphasize Notre Dame's deep significance in French history and culture.

The rooster, crowning a spire reconstructed from Eugène Viollet-le-Duc's 19th-century design, serves as a poignant reminder of its medieval origins as a symbol of hope and faith. Its enduring association with the French nation since the Renaissance adds to its historical and cultural importance, marking a new chapter of renewal and hope for Notre Dame and the French people.