Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Russia to join China in restoring France’s Notre Dame cathedral

Experts are expected to advice on renovating the Paris landmark, which caught fire in April

China and Russia both say they will help in the restoration of France’s famed Notre Dame cathedral, heavily damaged in a devastating blaze earlier this year.

Russia’s embassy in London said the country had experts “well accustomed” to dealing with the materials that will be used to rebuild the cathedral and last week a Chinese official said it would also support renovation efforts.

Both countries have offered their help since the April blaze at the 850-year old cathedral in Paris, which required 400 firefighters to extinguish and saw its famed spire fall. Ancient relics and artwork were also saved.

The true cost of the project, expected to be well over a billion dollars, and if the entire building can be saved, remains unclear.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester said last month that authorities were still securing the cathedral’s structure, which came before assessing the situation and restoration.

High levels of lead contamination have been found at the site.

"China has a great deal of experience in renovating ancient buildings affected by fire, especially ones made of wood," said Chai Xiaoming, director of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, in an interview with state-run China Daily.

"This means we could offer suggestions on how to approach the renovation of the oak-framed roof on Notre Dame Cathedral," he said.

Chinese experts are expected to join the French team for on-site restoration in 2020. France will also support exports to protect the Terracotta Warriors in the Chinese city of Xian.

Earlier this week, a Russian official said it expected to be invited to support restoration efforts later this year.

“I talked to the head of Foreign Ministry’s Department of Culture and Education who was in Moscow and she told me that France is willing and will put forward such a proposal to invite Russian specialists to draft Notre-Dame’s restoration project,” Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for International and Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy, told TASS news agency.

"We have specialists who know this stone very well since there was a lot of rebuilding in the 19th century. There are specialists in this period," he added.

France has been divided over exactly how to restore Notre Dame. President Emmanuel Macron has drawn criticism from some circles over his insistence it will be rebuilt within five years with some experts cautioning him not to be overambitious and to take his time.

Mr Macron has also favoured modernising the cathedral whereas many want it restored back to exactly how it was.

The French and Russian embassies in London have been contacted for comment.

Updated: November 14, 2019 05:31 PM

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