Proposal to Replace Notre-Dame Cathedral Windows with Contemporary Art Incites Outrage

Artnews_ Once again, plans to modernize the centuries-old Notre-Dame Cathedral have spurred outrage throughout France. More than 125,000 people have signed a petition decrying a proposal to replace the chapel windows designed by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1859 with stained glass artworks.

The original windows were not damaged in the 2019 blaze that consumed the church’s roof and iconic spire, however French President Emmanuel Macron proposed on December 8 that they be moved to a new museum dedicated to the restoration process of Notre-Dame. He added that contemporary artists in France would be invited to submit designs for new windows for six of the seven chapels along the church’s south aisle.

The online petition appeared within two days of Macron’s announcement.

“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 letter, published by La Tribune de l’Art, reads.

It continues: “Emmanuel Macron wants to put the mark of the 21st century on Notre-Dame de Paris. A little modesty might be best. We will not be cruel enough to remind you that this mark already exists: fire.”

The devastating fire destroyed two-thirds of the roof, sparing its iconic towers but irreparably damaging the spire. After a landslide of donations from French and international patrons, reconstruction began in earnest in 2022. The Culture Ministry has, for the most part, adhered religiously to Viollet-le-Duc’s vision, with monumental beams produced from some 1,500 oaks treated and cut per medieval carpentry techniques supporting the roof. A prior public outcry, however, caused Macron to abandoned plans to replace the 19th-century spire with a “contemporary architectural gesture.”

While the interior still bares obvious scars from the disaster, the roof and spire are expected to be complete when millions of Olympics fans descend on Paris for the Summer Games this July.