As reported on NPR.org, a little over three months after Paris’ Notre Dame caught fire, French officials say the cathedral is still in a precarious state and needs to be stabilized. Ultimately, they aim to restore the monument, a process that will take years.
When that work begins, there will be a new demand for experts who have the same skills required to build Notre Dame 900 years ago. In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.
In an airy and light-filled workshop in the north of Paris, a handful of students chip and chisel away at heavy slabs of stone. Each works on his or her own piece, but all are sculpting the same project: the base of a Corinthian column. The students are earning a professional degree to hew the stone pieces needed to maintain and restore France’s historical monuments.
Every year, about 30 new stonemasons graduate either with this degree, the professional license in stone carving for historic monuments, or a less advanced diploma in stone carving.
François Menut is one of the students working toward the professional license.
“I’ve always been passionate about drawing and art history, but I also wanted a job that was physical,” says Menut. “With stone carving, we give life to an edifice and perpetuate history. We’re also creating a link with the past and transmitting values that are important to conserve in society.”
On April 15, he and his classmates watched in horror as Notre Dame burned for 12 hours, unsure if it would still be standing the next day. Some now hope they will have the chance to help restore it.