At the basilica of Saint-Denis, participatory workshops before reassembling the spire

The basilica of Saint Denis participatory workshops prior to the winding of the arrow
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The reconstruction of the spire of the basilica of Saint-Denis will not start until 2022, but we can already hear the hammer of the stonecutter knocking. Until October, craftsmen present the know-how of a site where, unlike Notre-Dame, long time is of the essence.

“When you do this job, the concept of time is not the same. You should not want to finish before you have started,” says Mathieu Bonnemaison, a 34-year-old blacksmith.

In the framework of participatory workshops inaugurated on Friday, he has just explained his profession for an hour to ten visitors, close to the imposing basilica of Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), whose spire awaits to be rebuilt since the middle of the 19th century.

“Today, it is a privilege to be able to work as we do here and to be able to share what we do to different audiences,” said AFP, a fan of medieval skills, for whom transmitting is at the heart of vocation.

Take the time, present the necessary techniques, include the inhabitants: the method advocated in Saint-Denis contrasts with the reconstruction at the desired rate of charge for the burnt cathedral of Notre-Dame, which President Macron wants to see restored in five years.

– 12th century techniques –

“Here, the objective is to make a project that will radiate all over the city”, “so that the workers can tell their trade, their history”, underlines Frédéric Keiff, architect of the project.

AFP
A stonecutter explains his gestures to visitors in front of the Saint-Denis basilica, June 5, 2020© AFP – Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

Scheduled to last ten years, the reconstruction of the spire of the North Tower, worth 25 million euros, will start in 2022 and will use stone cutting methods from the end of the 12th century. The tools will be manufactured by blacksmiths on the site and the stones will be laid manually using a mortar produced in part on site.

This spire, 90 meters high, had dominated north-eastern Paris for more than seven centuries before being dismantled in the mid-19th century, stone by stone, following a hurricane.

Since vendedi, the sound of tools on stone resonates in the space dedicated to demonstrations, a few meters from the building, famous for housing the necropolis of the kings of France.

“Ah yes, it is true that it is prettier”, notes Héloise, 9 years old. A broad smile blossoms on his face. Helped by a professional stonemason, she has just engraved the initial of her first name on a piece of rock.

“She loves it. She doesn’t want to leave me room,” explains her mother, Hajdar Lahna, a mask in this department particularly affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

– “Create vocations”

AFP
A blacksmith explains his work and shows medieval gestures to visitors, June 5, 2020 in front of the Basilica of Saint-Denis © AFP – Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

With its chisel and hammer, Délivrance Makingson, a stonemason for 25 years, advances towards another group of visitors and helps them to make the right gestures. This Saint-Denis resident is delighted to “create vocations” and “to change the face” of his city.

Because this masterpiece of Gothic architecture is also a “consubstantial element” to the inhabitants, according to its mayor Laurent Russier. “The whole point of this project is to make it a participatory project,” said the communist councilor.

“The important thing is not only to rebuild the spire identically, it is how this project will have a real insertion effect and how the basilica will continue to be shaped with its inhabitants”, underlines t -he.

“Big sister” and “inspirer of the cathedral” Notre-Dame in the 13th century according to Saadia Tamelikecht, curator of the basilica, will history repeat itself in the 21st century? Benjamin Masure, coordinator of the project, hopes at least that the two sites will “work together”.

AFP
A blacksmith reproduces medieval gestures in front of the Saint-Denis basilica on June 5, 2020 as part of a workshop © AFP – Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

“At Notre-Dame, we know that they will have to cut stone. Why not be their training center for stonemasons?” He wonders.

The participatory workshops, launched on Friday, are accessible by cycle of ten people maximum. Only by reservation on exploreparis.com, with 42 dates scheduled until October 22.

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