The fire broke out on April 15, 2019: The narrow tower was in flames, collapsed and tore part of the roof down with it – to the frightened looks and screams of hundreds of Parisians.

The images caused horror and consternation around the world. “Notre-Dame of Tears” and “The Tragedy of Paris” were the headlines in French and foreign newspapers. The next day, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would rebuild the partially destroyed church within five years. An ambitious promise that few believed at the time. But in a few months only images will remind us of the devastating fire. A large part of the new spire, including the golden rooster, can now be seen again.

Five years ago, 650 firefighters were deployed to ensure that Notre Dame was not completely burned down. Hundreds of craftsmen are now working on repairing it – so that the building will soon be completely restored. Just in time for the opening of the Olympic Games on July 26th, Notre Dame will almost completely shine with its new external appearance.

The huge scaffolding, which recently towered up to 90 meters high into the Parisian sky, should be dismantled if possible by the opening of the games, explained Philippe Jost, the head of the public institution responsible for rebuilding the cathedral. Then the tower should be clearly visible again. The facades of the north and south transepts as well as the roof structure should also be visible until the sporting event starts. The cathedral will have completely regained its external appearance by the time of the games, it was said from the Élysée Palace.

At the opening, the Gothic masterpiece will be part of the celebrations, according to Thomas Jolly, artificial director of the Olympic ceremonies. Notre-Dame and the new tower will be given a special homage, as the theater director and actor told the France Inter radio station.

For the first time, the opening ceremony will not take place in a stadium, but in the middle of the city on the Seine. The six-kilometer-long boat parade passes landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame. At the last Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, a religious opening ceremony was held in the cathedral.

The crossing tower, which culminates more than 90 meters above the ground, is an iconic feature of the cathedral. The original was built in 1250 and was a bell tower. The tower was dismantled during the French Revolution (1789-1799). Over 70 years later it was rebuilt as a 19th century architectural masterpiece. The tower, whose purpose was purely decorative, was built on an octagonal base resting on the four columns of the transept – in 18 months. On April 15, 2019, the 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead collapsed in just one hour.

As the highest point of the monument, the peak tower has, in addition to its aesthetic and architectural quality, also a strong religious significance. At the top rose a rooster containing three relics: several thorns of the Holy Crown of Thorns, a relic of Saint Dionysius and one of Saint Genoveva. The rooster was rescued from the rubble hours after the fire. It will be on display in the future Notre Dame Museum, along with the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ, a holy nail and a splinter of the Holy Cross.

In Christianity, the rooster symbolizes the return of light after night. That’s why you can see a rooster sitting on many church towers. The remains of Saint Dionysius, first bishop of Paris and martyr, and Saint Genoveva, patron saint of Paris, are said to provide protection to France’s capital and its residents.

Since mid-December, a new gold-plated copper tap has been rising into the city sky – with one more legacy inside. A list of everyone involved in this reconstruction – almost 2000 names.

To rebuild the tower, 1,000 oak trees between 100 and 200 years old were felled. No fewer trunks were necessary for the framework of the vaults of the nave and the choir, which were restored according to the medieval model.

The new beams were worked by hand with an ax in record time, just like in the time of the first builders, to whom the virtual reality show “Éternelle Notre-Dame” (The Eternal Notre-Dame) leads under the forecourt of the cathedral. France is the country of builders, said the French head of state when he announced just one day after the fire that the church would be rebuilt within five years.

Since the foundation stone was laid in 1163, the cathedral has changed its face over the centuries: it has been expanded, looted, devastated and renovated. One of the most significant restorations should have been the maintenance and modernization work that began in July 2018. But almost nine months later, the previously unimaginable happened.

On April 15, 2019, the first fire alarm sounded at 6:20 p.m., after the service began. The believers had to leave the building, but were allowed to go back because there was no sign of a fire. A few minutes later, at 6:43 p.m., the alarm went off again. Too late. A huge cloud of smoke could already be seen from the outside, rising from the attic above the cathedral.

The cause of the fire has not yet been clarified. Initial assumptions were that a smoking ban on the construction site was being ignored. A short circuit is also possible.