Saturday, April 17, 2021

After centuries in the field, these French oaks will soon form part of the new summit at Notre Dame

written by Saska Vandoorne, C.N.N.

Deep in the royal forest east of Berke in the Loire region of France, a 230-year-old tree crashes to the ground with thunderclap.

A 65-foot-high oak tree, just a plant during the French Revolution, is one of many that have fallen as part of ongoing efforts to rebuild Notre Dame.

A 200-year-old oak tree comes down as part of Notre Dame’s rebuilding efforts. Credit: Jean-François Monier / AFP / Getty Images

The tree will eventually join the 1,000 other oaks being used to recreate the roof lattice and replace the base of the girth that surrounded the explosion that ravaged the Gothic building in April 2019, nearly two years ago .

“We know it’s the end of something, but it’s also the beginning,” said 15th generation forest conservator Pauline Delord.

His colleague Claire Quinones agrees. “This is the best second life we ​​(trees) can give,” she said.

Last summer, French President Emmanuel Macron dropped the idea of ​​a contemporary redesign for Notre Dame’s 315-foot summit – originally added by Eugene Violet-le-Duke in 1859 – before opting instead Uniform restoration. The decision attempted a month-long hunt for the right oak for the right time, with the ability to meet the exacting demands of architects Philippe Villanueve and Remy Frank brought in to oversee the reconstruction process.
Lumberjacks work on harvesting oak trees selected for use in rebuilding Notre Dame.

Lumberjacks work on harvesting oak trees selected for use in rebuilding Notre Dame. Credit: Martin Bureau / AFP / AFP via Getty Image

This winter, the drone was used to scan a snow-filled forest near Le Mans, in search of the first eight tights that would be used to support the spire. The drone, with the help of 3D imagery, was used to view samples over 3 feet wide and over 60 feet in length, with no faults. Thin trees in Bercé have a light curve that makes them ideal for the summit.

The selected trees will be felled before the end of March and dried for 12 to 18 months to ensure that the beams will shrink or not move once in place.

Notre Dame in December 2020.

Notre Dame in December 2020. Credit: Mario Formi / Abca / Sipa

According to the General of the Army in charge of rebuilding Notre Dame, these trees were planted in the reign of King Louis XIV to provide timber for building masts for ships belonging to the French Navy.

“We are poor people who only live 60, 70, 80, 100 years maximum. But here we are after the trees,” said General Jean-Louis Georgelin. “We recognize the humility of a human being in the face of the vastness of the universe.”

In addition to the eight oaks coming down in Bursey, more than 200 trees have been donated from more than 200 forests across the country – the four corners of France will be represented within the cathedral after the construction work is completed.

A petition addressed to France’s ecology minister calls for a ban on tree cutting, but forestry groups say the number of fallen trees represents the percentage of oak chopped off each year in France.

Notre Dame is scheduled to reopen in 2024, but with delays last year due to the Kovid-19 epidemic – and large amounts of lead dust at a contamination-risk site – many believe that by Macron The set date is unrealistic. However, General Georgelin remained adamant. “There is no doubt about whether we will reopen the cathedral in 2024,” he said.


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