The French have toppled hundreds of centuries-old oak trees to replace the iconic 305-foot Gothic spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that was destroyed by fire in 2019.
The job required cutting down 1,000 oaks in more than 200 forests across France, The Associated Press reported, and many people were upset about it.
The oaks, some as old as 350 years old, were chosen with the help of drones from public and private forests. According to The Guardian, the trees had to be chopped down by the end of March before their sap rose to prevent humidity in the wood. They must dry for 18 months before they can be used to reconstruct the spire.
Eight of the largest trees were taken from the forests of Bercé in France’s Loire region. They were planted during the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715). One felled oak was a mere sapling during the French Revolution. And some of the trees were at least 65 feet tall.
While many hailed the national effort to once again raise Notre Dame’s steeple, others were crushed by the loss of the trees. A petition condemning the trees’ removal as “eco-cide” garnered more than 40,000 signatures, Artnet News reported.
Officials claimed the trees would have been felled in any case as part of routine forest maintenance.
“We know it’s the end of something, but it’s also the beginning,” said Pauline Delord, a 15th-generation forest guardian who is responsible for protecting and managing the forest.
French President Emmanuel Macron has predicted that the cathedral could be reopened by 2024, in time for the Paris Summer Olympics.
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