The crypt beneath Paris’ Notre Dame reopened to the public last week over a year after the devastating fire led to its closure in April of 2019.
Although the crypt was not damaged by the fire, it was affected by the fallout of lead dust. For the past year, cleaning crews have been sweeping out the toxic debris.
“It was terrible,” chief curator of the crypt, Sylvie Robin, told Smithsonian. “There was lead everywhere. Molds and micro-organisms spread, because we had to turn off the ventilation system. So today is an important moment, a very moving moment of renewal and hope for us.”
The crypt reopened to the public last week featuring a brand new exhibit chronicling the history of the cathedral. The exhibit specifically focuses on Victor Hugo, who wrote the character of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and architect Eugene Viollet-Le-Duc, who designed the cathedral’s iconic gothic spire.
Visitors will see drawings, films and other spinoff material from Hugo’s character. Photographs of the mid-19th century construction of the spire will delight hardcore Notre Dame fans.
The exhibit is laid around the crypt’s most spectacular draw — ancient remains of ramparts and thermal baths excavated from beneath Paris. The remnants from archaeological digs of Ile de la Cite, the Parisian island where the cathedral is located, are also on display.
The crypt is not officially linked to the cathedral. It lies beneath the public plaza in front of the massive church, which reopened to the public in June. The exhibit is scheduled to run until 2022.
The cathedral itself remains closed. French President Emmanuel Macron hopes that Notre Dame will be completely restored before 2024, when Paris is due to host the Olympics.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.
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