Notre-Dame de Paris: Philippe Jost “See you in a year, in the cathedral”

Notre-Dame de Paris: Philippe Jost “See you in a year, in the cathedral”

You were very close…

I was the first to join him the week following his appointment, in 2019. He understood that his role was above all to embody the mission entrusted to him and to make the objective of a reopening in five years. I provided the “technical substrate”, i.e. the recruitment of the thirty or so necessary agents, the preparation of the budgets… The general involved me in his strategic thinking, he shared his burden with me: with humor, he called me his “Simon of Cyrene”!

What did you say to Emmanuel Macron when he asked you to take over?

The President of the Republic did not hide from me that he was choosing continuity and loyalty to the general, whose mission had been a success. I thanked him, honored by his confidence, assured him of my total determination to achieve the set objective. The personal involvement of the President, far from being a constraint, is mobilizing for all those involved in the project.

To manage a historical monument, is it an opportunity or a difficulty to have completed your career at the General Directorate of Armaments?

I feel this as an opportunity. For years I have represented the interests of the State in negotiations and the mechanics of governance. Public project management is familiar to me. I learned how to handle big budgets. And then, I don’t take on this responsibility alone! I have a whole team including a deputy general director.

You also studied at the École du Louvre, in Paris…

Alongside my engineering studies, I sought to nourish my taste for history and heritage. I particularly loved the art of Greek Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and I admit a predilection for the classical period of the 17th century, whose balance and sobriety I appreciate.

Describe your daily life to us!

My days are made up of meetings with all our partners within the State, the diocese of Paris, with patrons and foundations, with project management, led by our trio of chief architects, Philippe Villeneuve, Rémi Fromont (read p. 39) and Pascal Prunet; rich and useful meetings in the workshops, throughout France, and in the cathedral itself, with the different trades involved. We are united, united in this formidable human adventure: our mission has meaning. The beauty of the building we take care of is in itself a unifying factor. Often, journeymen and craftsmen tell me that this project “marks them for life”. Everyone is happy to see the framework of the spire and the roof being reassembled and is delighted to admire the cleaned nave and aisles which give an impression of much larger space than before the fire.

What are the next operations that you are going to carry out?

The refurbishment of electrical networks for lighting, sound, heating, etc. We also install fire protection including a misting system in the attic – to saturate the air with humidity in the event of a fire – and fire trusses to insulate the attic from the spire. In 2024, roofers will install the lead plates and the many roof ornaments. For this, the entire framework must be scaffolded. By the time of the Olympics next summer, the spire should be visible, largely freed from the large scaffolding necessary for its reconstruction.

Is the planned schedule respected?

We are on time. There will obviously still be difficulties and unforeseen events, but we are confident and mobilized to reopen the cathedral on December 8, 2024. Work on the exterior parts of the monument will continue after this date.

Do you share the general’s priority: returning the building to worship?

Notre-Dame is first and foremost a living place of worship and its spiritual dimension fully contributes to its beauty. We must return the cathedral to the pilgrims, the faithful and all those who love it, throughout the world, whatever their convictions and the reasons for their attachment to the monument.

What message would you like to send to our readers?

I would like to thank them because, through their donations and their careful monitoring of the restoration, we feel their decisive support; also tell them that I understand and share their impatience and that they can count on us to return the cathedral to them in just one year.

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