June 1, 2020 - 14:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Paris officials on Sunday, May 31 removed the tall metal barriers surrounding the square in front of Notre-Dame cathedral, offering visitors a close-up look at the gothic monument for the first time since the devastating fire that struck last year, AFP reports.
"It's almost a form of rebirth today," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, wearing a face mask, said in a short address to journalists while visiting the site with the cathedral's rector Patrick Chauvet.
"Notre-Dame is the soul of Paris... It's a site that doesn't fail to impress you," she said.
The square began to fill up under sunny afternoon skies as word of the unexpected reopening spread.
"Notre-Dame is our symbol, more than the Eiffel Tower," said Stephanie Cadillon, a librarian. "We wanted to see how it had changed."
The monumental facade and arched entrances remain blocked, however, behind beige security barriers as workers prepare to resume restoration work as France's coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
The plaza was closed off shortly after the blaze on April 15, 2019, that nearly destroyed the 13th-century church, which millions of people watched on live TV worldwide.
The fire completely consumed the oak beams and more than 300 tons of lead panelling in the roof, spewing toxic lead particles into the air as they melted.
Heavy concentrations of the metal settled on the square and nearby streets that proved particularly difficult to remove, sparking fears that residents could be exposed to poisoning.