WATERTOWN, NY; December 9, 2022 – In April 2019, the world watched as a devastating fire almost destroyed Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. NOVA: REBUILDING NOTRE DAME documents the daunting challenges of restoring the historic landmark. The PBS science series NOVA, a production of GBH, will premiere the new one-hour special on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 9 pm on WPBS-TV.
The film, which will also be available for streaming anytime online at PBS.org/nova, NOVA on YouTube, and on the PBS video app, highlights the fight to preserve a beloved site of European cultural heritage. It chronicles the efforts of engineers, scientists, and craft professionals working at the intersection of history and technology, as they battle to save one of the continent’s most iconic sites.
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME rejoins the team from NOVA’s 2020 film SAVING NOTRE DAME to discover what innovations the restoration crew have implemented as they push towards the 2024 completion date. In a race against the clock, this preservation project showcases the richness of the sites that has made it so iconic. The teams are working to preserve the medieval cathedral for centuries of visitors to know and understand.
“This is an amazing story to continue to watch and see the evolution of preservational techniques and the team’s dedication to their craft,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer, Julia Cort about REBUILDING NOTRE DAME. “This topic really resonated with viewers of the program we aired back in 2020, SAVING NOTRE DAME, and we are happy to be catching up with this saga now.”
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME takes viewers behind the scenes of the historic restoration process of Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral, as architects, engineers, masons, and timber workers race to rehabilitate the Gothic landmark following the 2019 fire that almost destroyed the building. The structure was left significantly weakened, with concern for the entire cathedral collapsing. The program traces the dramatic human and technical challenges of the project’s first three years, with a behind-the-scenes look at carpenters shaping lumber for the new roof and spire, stone masons repairing gaping holes in the vault, and artisans using traditional techniques to restore stained glass windows.
“It has been a great privilege to document the next chapter of Notre Dame’s astonishing restoration and to spend time with the inspirational scientists, historians and architects who are working to reopen the cathedral in 2024,” said Joby Lubman, Director and Producer of REBUILDING NOTRE DAME.
The film follows Logger Ahmet Cirpan and team as they comb public and private forests around France for 2,000 oak trees that could be used to reconstruct the so-called “forest” structure of the roof. It took huge imagination and levels of engineering to create this exceptional architecture, and the spire became the embodiment of the building and of the Paris skyline. “I only have one goal—repair and rebuild the cathedral, put the rooster on top of the spire and say, ‘mission accomplished,’” says Chief Architect of Historic Monuments, Philippe Villeneuve.
As art historians work on accurately restoring Notre Dame, they discover new complexity to the original site. The team pieces together the restoration process of Architect Eugène Viollet Le Duc, who led the 19th century restoration after the church was ransacked during the French Revolution, discovering that previous restoration projects were motivated not only by mere aesthetics, but also sophisticated engineering decisions.
REBUILDING NOTRE DAME is a NOVA Production by Windfall Films Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for GBH in association with BBC. Executive Producer for Windfall Films is Carlo Massarella. Produced and Directed by Joby Lubman and Alessandra Bonomolo. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH.
Original funding for REBUILDING NOTRE DAME is provided by Brilliant Worldwide, Inc., Consumer Cellular, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust with support from Margaret and William Hearst.
NOVA is the most popular primetime science series on American television, demystifying the scientific and technological concepts that shape and define our lives, our planet, and our universe. The PBS series is also one of the most widely distributed science programs around the world, and is a multimedia, multiplatform brand reaching more than 55 million Americans every year on TV and online. NOVA’s important and inspiring stories of human ingenuity, exploration, and the quest for knowledge are regularly recognized with the industry’s most prestigious awards. As part of its mission to make the scientific enterprise accessible to all, NOVA is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all its work, from the production process to the range of stories we tell and the voices we amplify. In addition, science educators across the country rely on NOVA for resources used in the classroom as well as in museums, libraries, and after-school programs. NOVA is a production of GBH Boston; more information can be found at pbs.org/nova, or by following NOVA on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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