French Oak Triumph as Crews Finish Notre Dame’s Roof Frame

Work now turns to the cathedral's nave and choir timber frame, historically known as la forêt or the forest.

Mon 15 Jan 24


Less than 11 months before its reopening, crews working on the US $760 million-plus Notre Dame de Paris restoration celebrated a major milestone with work on the massive timber frame roof delivered ‘on time.’

The milestone was celebrated by the carpenters, stonemasons, scaffolders, sculptures, gliders and glassmakers alike, with a bouquet craned to the top of the cathedral’s summit – a French tradition that symbolises the finalisation of a major project.

Speaking to the Associated Press on Saturday, Peter Henrikson, a Minnestoa-based specialist carpenter and timber framer who has spent the last four years working on the project, was amazed by the progress.

“What’s there is the same as before (in the middle ages),” he said, before continuing that “a lot of attention was paid to the details, to make sure the roof is the same as it was before it burnt down.”

The timber frame was fully restored over the weekend – footage courtesy of @ktsm9news.

Last year, Wood Central reported that carpenters were employing 800-year-old construction techniques in the roof’s construction – a process that gave the more than 500 plus workers on the project an appreciation of their predecessors’ handiwork that pushed the architectural envelope back in the 13th century.

“It’s a little mind-bending sometimes,” said Mr Henrikson, who spoke to the US-based ABC News in mid-2023.

He said there were times when he was whacking a mallet on a chisel that he found himself thinking about his medieval counterparts who were cutting “basically the same joint 900 years ago.”

Peter Henrikson travelled from Minnesota to France to assist with restoring the Notre Dame cathedral – footage courtesy of @MPR_News.

According to the Friends of Notre Dame De Paris – which provides updated coverage on the project, workers must follow strict guidelines in handling the raw material – which, according to the late Jean-Louis Georgelin, is crucial in “restoring this cathedral as it was in the Middle Ages.”

“It is a way to be faithful to the [handiwork] of all the people who built all the extraordinary monuments in France.”

After the April 2019 fire, President Macron and former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe invited architects, carpenters and artisans worldwide to help create “a new spire adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”.

In 2019, President Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral within five years for the Paris Olympics – however, that was extended to December 2024 due to construction delays and Covid-19 – footage courtesy of @GlobalNews.

According to Hank Silver, a New York-based carpenter and timber framer, “It is so impressive to see all the other trades, all the other craftspeople who are here today.”

“To see the sculptors, to see the masons, the glass restoration experts, the organ experts, it’s unbelievable,” before saying, “It’s a city inside a city”, all with different specialities. 

From hundreds of oak trees grown and chopped down in the ancient forests of France, the spire base – weighing 80 tonnes – was transported to Paris and hoisted onto the cathedral roof.

Precise measurements were crucial to fit it into the corners of the medieval masonry where, 900 years prior, the original architects had positioned their initial roof frame.

Workers then began installing a replacement, crafted from hundreds of ancient French oaks. 

With work on the roof finalised, Wood Central reports that crews are working on the nave and choir timber frame, historically known as la forêt or the forest.

Wood Cental understands that construction crews began installing the massive framework, 32 metres long, nearly 14 metres wide and 10 metres high, for the choir in May, with the installation of the timber framework over the vaults continuing into the new year after some delays.

Made up of 35 trusses and 22 half-trusses, forming six bays and a semi-circular apse, carpenters combine 800-year-old construction techniques and 3D modelling to speed up the reconstruction.

At the same time, acoustic engineers are also working on the internal sound, “mapping out the cathedral’s acoustics, calculating how sound reverberates against each interior feature of the building.”

The restoration of the UNESCO-listed building, which had 12 million visitors a year before the fire, is forecast to welcome 14 million visitors a year after it reopens.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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