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For Canadian mason, the Notre Dame Cathedral is ‘more than a building’

For Canadian mason, the Notre Dame Cathedral is ‘more than a building’
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A Canadian carver reflects on his connection to France s iconic cathedral as officials hope restoration will last only five years. Mike Le Couteur reports.

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Few people know the painstaking work it will take to restore Notre Dame de Paris to its full grandeur like John-Philippe Smith.

The assistant to Canada’s official Dominion Sculptor just finished the eight-year restoration of the West Block on Parliament Hill, which was easy by comparison.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to have the architectural treasure reopened within five years, but even Smith concedes that it’s a lofty goal.

The 856-year old Parisian icon was ravaged by an inferno Monday evening, destroying most of the cathedral. Smith said he was gutted and shocked when he saw what happened to the building known as the Heart of France.

“I felt sick to my stomach. To be honest with you it’s, to me, more than a building at the time. I mean, I always see it as like a mountain of stone that’s impenetrable,” Smith said from the workshop he co-owns with his business partner, Danny Barber.

Smith continues to look photos from the rubble to see the extent of the damage. Reports suggest many of the vaults in the structure have failed and he’s worried about its stability.

Rebuilding and restoring it to its former grandeur will require an army of traditional carpenters and stone masons. Smith believes France is well-placed to fill the with its wealth of strong and competent tradespeople, however he’s ready and willing to help.

“Professionally. I would say it’d be an honour,” said Smith. “It would just be incredible. Yeah, it would be a bit of a dream come true, to be honest”.
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