Photo: Profimedia Images

Secular oaks that will be used for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral. “We give them a second life”

The former royal forest of Bercé, in the French region of Loire, a 230-year-old tree falls to the ground. Just a seedling during the French Revolution, the 20-meter-high oak is one of the 1,000 trees felled to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, which was burned by a large fire two years ago, CNN reports .

Hundreds of years old oaks will be used to rebuild the wooden structure of the roof and to replace the base of the tower swallowed by the flames in April 2019.

“We know it’s the end of something, but it’s also a beginning,” says Pauline Delord, a forest ranger in Bercé.

Her colleague Claire Quinones agrees: “It’s the best second life we ​​can have,” she said.

Last summer, French President Emmanuel Macron abandoned the idea of ​​a contemporary redevelopment of the cathedral’s 96-meter tower, originally added by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in 1859, and opted for an identical restoration.

The decision triggered a search for perfect oaks that could meet the demanding requirements of architects Philippe Villeneuve and Remi Fromont, who oversee the reconstruction process.

This winter, drones were used to scan a forest near Le Mans in search of the first eight trees to be used to support the tower. With the help of 3D images, drones were used to search for specimens measuring one meter wide and over 18 meters high, with no visible defects. The thin trees of Bercé have a slight curve that makes them ideal for the tower.

The selected trees will be felled this spring and dried for 12 to 18 months to ensure the stability of the beams.

According to the army general in charge of rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral, these trees were planted during the reign of King Louis XIV to provide wood for the construction of ships belonging to the French navy.

“We are poor people who live only 60, 70, 80, 100 years maximum. But the trees stay here and after. We recognize the humility of the human being in front of the immensity of the universe “, said General Jean-Louis Georgelin.

In addition to the eight oaks in Bercé, several trees were donated from over 200 forests across the country.

A petition addressed to the French Minister of Ecology called for a halt to the cutting of trees, but forestry groups say the number of trees felled to restore the cathedral represents a small percentage of oak trees cut down each year in France.

Notre Dame is scheduled to reopen in 2024, but due to pandemic delays and large amounts of lead dust at the fire site, which poses a risk of contamination, many believe Macron’s date is unrealistic.

However, General Georgelin remains firm: “We will reopen the cathedral in 2024, no doubt.”

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