A new version of an iconic cockerel, or rooster, is once again watching over Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, symbolizing resilience amid destruction after a devastating April 2019 fire. It was installed Dec. 16 atop Notre Dame spire's cross.
Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Paris blessed the figure, which is a heraldic animal of the French Republic and, in a moving moment, inserted the relics of St. Denis, St. Genevieve and the relics of Christ's crown of thorns, believed to be worn by Jesus during his passion, into the golden statue -- which was then lifted up by a crane to go to the top of the gigantic construction.
The cockerel also symbolically holds a roll of paper listing 2,000 names of the builders of the new spire and of all the companies involved in rebuilding the cathedral.
"It shows that we can do anything, we are capable of it," said Philippe Jost, president of the Rebâtir Notre Dame de Paris, the organization responsible for the reconstruction.
The previous cockerel, damaged in the fire, will be placed in the future Notre Dame museum, which French President Emmanuel Macron announced will be created in the Hôtel-Dieu building, a stone's throw from the cathedral.
On Nov. 28, Parisians saw the spire of the "dame" of the city reinstalled -- its upper part was placed over its wooden structure, 315 feet above the ground. On Dec. 6, its cross was lifted into the air by a crane, and installed on top.
"It was a spectacular moment," Father Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, rector-archpriest of the cathedral, told OSV News. "Now you can really make out the silhouette of the cathedral. It is the most visible symbol of the cathedral's resurrection."
On Dec. 8, 2024, the most famous cathedral in the world will welcome the faithful again. The French president said he will extend an invitation for Pope Francis to attend the historic moment.
"Never has anyone alive seen Notre Dame as we shall see it," Father Ribadeau Dumas told OSV News.
The rector of the cathedral welcomed President Macron at Notre Dame's reconstruction site on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, together with Archbishop Ulrich. In accordance with the French 1905 law of separation of church and state, the cathedral is the property of the French state, although it is assigned to the Archdiocese of Paris for Catholic worship.
"Since April 2019, the entire nation has been rebuilding," Macron told reporters. "And it's very moving to be here a year before. You can see the extraordinary progress of the work on this nave, the choir and the frames and the spire," he said.
In an interview with France 2 television, Macron said he would invite Pope Francis to attend the cathedral's reopening. "I hope so, in any case we'll invite him," he said when asked about the pope's possible presence. "The invitation will be extended. But it's not for me to answer on his behalf," he added.
The spire, Notre Dame's iconic topping, collapsed April 15, 2019, amid a fire that shocked France and the whole world. After debates on how it should be rebuilt, French and church authorities decided to rebuild the spire exactly the same as before.
Inside the cathedral, one last piece of scaffolding remains under the transept crossing. The workmen are reinstalling the stones in the floor, which they had to remove to make way for pipes and electrical cables.
The famous Paris cathedral will be equipped with a unique fire protection system when it reopens next year, Jost said on Dec. 13.
The head of the body charged with rebuilding the cathedral after a devastating blaze told the parliamentary commission that "All precautions have been taken for a complete rethink of its fire protection."
Notre Dame will be equipped with a vaporization system, currently being installed below the roof and in the spire, that Jost said would immediately stop any outbreaking fire from spreading, Le Monde reported. "This is a first for a cathedral in France," he said.
The UNESCO-listed building had 12 million visitors a year before the fire and Jost said that after the Dec. 8, 2024 reopening, would attract some 14 million visitors per year.