French General Leading Notre Dame Restoration Jean-Louis Georgelin Passes Away at 74

20:56 19.08.2023

Jean-Louis Georgelin, the decorated French general who was leading the ambitious restoration project of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, has tragically passed away at the age of 74. President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences, stating that "the nation has lost one of its greatest soldiers, France one of its great servants, and Notre-Dame the architect of its rebirth."

General Georgelin, a former army chief of staff, was hiking in the Pyrenees when the accident occurred, according to French news reports. The prosecutor's office confirmed that a body found by the police was that of General Georgelin, although the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear. Philippe Jost, the delegate director general of the task force overseeing the cathedral's reconstruction, confirmed that the general's death was accidental but did not provide further details.

General Georgelin was appointed by Macron to lead the restoration project just months after a devastating fire tore through the cathedral in April 2019. The fire destroyed the ancient timbers in Notre-Dame's attic, melted the lead roof, and endangered the stability of the stone structure. The flames also caused the cathedral's spire to collapse, sending molten metal and charred beams into the interior.

Macron had vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame within five years, and General Georgelin was tasked with enforcing this ambitious timeline. The general, known for his no-nonsense approach, quickly became the face of the cathedral's reconstruction. His death is being mourned by figures such as Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, who described it as "a great loss," highlighting his ability to create the conditions necessary for a successful rebuild.

The archbishop of Paris, Laurent Ulrich, announced that a Mass for General Georgelin, who was a practicing Catholic, would be held at the Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois church in Paris. Despite challenges such as lead contamination and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the reconstruction has been progressing. Workers have started rebuilding the spire's wooden framework, and stained-glass windows and organ parts have returned to the site after being cleaned of lead dust.

General Georgelin emphasized that while Notre-Dame would be rebuilt identically, innovative fire prevention technology and rainwater recovery systems would be implemented to ensure its safety. He referred to the project as "building a 21st-century cathedral" while preserving its historical integrity.

Born in Aspet, France in 1948, General Georgelin began his military career in the French infantry and rose through the ranks to become President Jacques Chirac's personal military adviser. He served as chief of staff for France's armed forces from 2006 to 2010, overseeing military operations in various locations. He was also the grand chancellor of the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, from 2010 to 2016.

While Macron briefly entertained the idea of a contemporary architectural gesture for the cathedral's spire, it was ultimately decided to rebuild it as it was, including the lead roofing. General Georgelin played a vital role in ensuring that the restoration adhered to the original plans by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

Macron expressed regret that General Georgelin would not witness the reopening of Notre-Dame, scheduled for December 2024. However, he assured that the general's presence would be felt during the momentous occasion. With the loss of General Georgelin, France mourns the passing of a dedicated soldier and servant, who dedicated his final years to the rebirth of one of its most iconic landmarks.

/ Saturday, August 19, 2023, 8:56 PM /

themes:  Military

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