Reims repairs its war damage, a century on

Restoration of the cathedral is due to be completed in 2015


A €3.5m project to restore damage to the western façade of Notre-Dame de Reims, caused by German bombs hitting the Medieval cathedral in the northern French city during the First World War, is due to be completed in 2015. The first phase was launched in October, with conservators taking a mixed approach to treating 14 Medieval statues around the rose window; many of the works, which narrate Biblical stories of David and Solomon, have been badly disfigured since 1914. Four will be replaced by copies modelled on the 13th-century originals (as seen in 19th-century photographs), with six other copies based on a restoration carried out in 1906 and another three created to preserve a ruined appearance.

The largest statue, a 5m-tall figure of Goliath on the southern side, will be reconstructed in cement using 3D scans of the original, which has been kept at the Palais du Tau, the cathedral’s museum, since 1966. Christian Lécaille, the director of Léon Noël, the local stonemasonry firm working on the project, says this is the first time that the scanning technique has been used in a French cathedral. The stained-glass windows will be restored in a second phase. The project is being funded by the regional branch of the French culture ministry and the Society of Friends of Reims Cathedral.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 263 December 2014