French Conservatives Furious Over Plans To Rebuild Notre Dame With Modern Materials

Conservative French politicians are outraged over President Emmanuel Macron's suggestion that modern materials like steel, titanium and carbon be used in the reconstruction of Notre Dame as the president seeks to fulfill his promise of finishing the project within five years.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, the right-wing party formerly known as the National Front, lashed out at her former presidential rival on Twitter. Responding to a tweet by French PM Edouard Philippe about an international architectural competition to replace the 19th-century spire, which collapsed during the fire, Le Pen tweeted #Touchepasnotredame  - or hands off Notre Dame.

In his tweet, the PM questioned whether the spire should be made out of the same materials, or whether it should even be rebuilt at all.

According to the FT, Macron's promise to rebuild the cathedral within five years would probably be impossible if builders had to source, season and fit the type of massive oak beams used in the original construction.

Meanwhile, Jordan Bardella, a 23-year-old rising star of the far-right who is leading the RN into the European elections in May, mocked the idea of a contemporary roof for the cathedral, instead demanding an "identical" reconstruction while condemning the prospect of "some awful piece of contemporary art, modern art."

Notre Dame

Bardella told a French television station: "We have to stop the madness now. France’s heritage deserves the utmost respect."

But Le Pen and RN weren't the only ones attacking Macron over his suggestion.

Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the Republicans, the party of former prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy, also demanded that the reconstruction be identical to the original, while Francois-Xavier Bellamy, the head of his party’s list for May’s European Parliament elections, suggested that Macron and his ministers were guilty of arrogance and haste in trying to second-guess experts for the rebuilding of the cathedral.

As the FT pointed out, the controversy echoed the battle over the modernization of the Louvre museum in the 1980s under Francois Mitterrand, when glass pyramids were commissioned for the space between two wings of the museum.

Already, French billionaires, Apple Inc., and a host of others from the private sector have pledged some €800 million ($900 million) to help restore Notre Dame after the devastating  Holy Week fire that destroyed the roof and much of the exterior of the cathedral. Though this outpouring of wealth has aggravated members of the gilet jaunes movement, who attacked the donors for doing nothing to alleviate the social ills that inspired the movement.

As the French government, which is responsible for the cathedral, tries to put together a plan for the reconstruction, we imagine these issues will only intensify.