Applause and “bravos” erupt in the streets, among the crowds of tourists and onlookers gathered at the foot of the Parisian cathedral: that’s it! The sparkling gold rooster has just been secured up there, 96 meters away, at the top of the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris. “It symbolizes the vitality, the courage and the spirit of resilience at work on the construction site. And it of course carries the hope of the Resurrection, announcing a dawn of hope,” explained Mgr. Laurent Ulrich who, a few minutes earlier, blessed him within the construction site. “Even if we are fragile like Saint Peter, this rooster shows us,” he continued, “that it is always possible to rebuild despite trials, to overcome fear and despair, if we trust in the Lord.”
It was he, the Archbishop of Paris, who placed in the belly of the animal, the two sealed brass tubes which again contain the relics of Saint Denis, martyr of Paris and of Saint Geneviève, the patroness of the capital, as well as a fragment of Christ’s crown of thorns. These were recovered from the cock of the old spire, which fell on a passageway of the cathedral during the fire of April 15, 2019.
Philippe Villeneuve, the chief architect of Historical Monuments in charge of the cathedral, had recovered the copper animal, all dented the day after the disaster. This, as a witness to the drama, will be exhibited in the treasury of the cathedral after its reopening in a year, then in the future museum of the work which the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, announced the creation in the neighboring Hôtel-Dieu, on December 8.
“A new rooster, not a copy”
Philippe Villeneuve, who designed the new rooster, confides: “this injured rooster which dated from 1937 and was already a copy of the one created in 1859 by the architect Viollet-le-Duc, also told me that it was still there! “There was hope! But we needed a new rooster, not a copy of a copy. A few months later, I drew three or four sketches. The idea kept coming to me that the wings of the new rooster should evoke the flames. Those of the fire of course, of which it is a sort of memorial, but also those of the phoenix which is reborn from its ashes. And of course, it is also the symbol of the Holy Spirit.” Philippe Jost, the president of the public establishment responsible for the restoration of Notre-Dame, thanked him for having designed such a beautiful work which “embodies the work of the 2,500 men and women who worked to restore the cathedral.
“There were several stages of sculpture, going through 3 F scanners and a foam test, before arriving at this copper plate rooster” says Julien Lebras, manager of the Le Bras Frères establishments. Then the Arcoa company applied the layers of paint and varnish necessary for the gold leaf to adhere.
In the winter sun which descends on Paris, a golden point now blazes at the highest point of the cathedral.