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Outrage Intensifies After French Government Proposes Modern Changes To Notre Dame

After the French government proposed adding modern art to the Notre Dame Cathedral, criticism has been piling up.

In 2019, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral – one of the most visited cathedrals in the world – caught fire. The devastating accident caused significant, and some irreparable damage to the historic site. The accident spurred heavy donations from people both within and outside France. Repair and reconstruction started in 2022 and are expected to finish before the Summer Olympics this year.

One of the elements that survived the fire unscathed was the glass chapel windows. The stained windows were designed by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1859. However, on December 8 last year, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed that the windows be removed from the cathedral and stored in a new museum. At the same time, contemporary French artists would be invited to create new designs for the chapel windows.

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The proposal met instant outcry from the general public. Two days after the announcement, an online petition denouncing the decision was created. The petition read: “How can we justify restoring stained glass windows that survived the disaster and then immediately remove them? Who gave the head of state the mandate to alter a cathedral that does not belong to him, but to everyone.” The petition has garnered 125,000 signatures so far.

The outrage against the proposal came not just within France, but internationally as well. However, this is not the first time Macron has tried to modernize the Notre Dame. Earlier, his plans to replace the 19th-century spire of the cathedral with contemporary architecture had to be dropped after public outrage.