More than two months after the arson that devastated the cathedral of the Dukes of Brittany, it is time to clean up, before a precise diagnosis can be made. The reconstruction site will be “the most important of the recent period in terms of historical monuments,” explains the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC).
The new Bishop of Nantes has chosen to celebrate his installation Mass on September 20, 2020 in the forecourt of the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral.
Bishop Laurent Percerou was able to measure the extent of the damage inflicted by the July 18 arson, which was caused by a Rwandan migrant in an irregular situation to whom they had seen fit to entrust the keys to the building.
The reconstruction work will take several years. The great organ dating from 1620 went up in smoke, requiring major preliminary clean-up work: “by melting, the great organ deposited lead on the ground and on part of the square,” explains Fr. François Renaud, diocesan administrator.
The glass roof is also completely destroyed, as well as the console of the choir organ, the old cathedral—the seat of the bishop—and part of the stalls. Likewise, nothing remains of the painting by Flandrin of Saint Clair, the First Bishop of Nantes, healing the blind, which was located near the recumbent statue of Francis II, Duke of Brittany.
There are also some uncertainties about the condition of the vault: “We found fragments of stone the size of a fingernail on the ground that were not there before. This will require us to climb into a gondola to take high definition photos,” explains Philippe Charron, manager of the heritage, architecture, and protected areas center at DRAC.
The diocese hopes for a gradual reopening of the building, especially parts that have not suffered, or suffered little, from the fire.
“What matters today is that we are delighted to welcome our new bishop,” said Fr. Francis Renaud. Bishop Percerou has his work cut out for him: the diocese has only 169 active priests, and their number should continue to decline rapidly.