Thieves Were Caught Attempting to Steal Medieval Stones From Notre-Dame Cathedral During Paris’s Citywide Lockdown

A photograph taken on December 26, 2019, shows a giant crane outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was partially destroyed when fire broke out beneath the roof. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images.

Since the devastating fire that nearly leveled Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral last April, the iconic French landmark has been undergoing an unprecedented restoration. But intensifying quarantine measures in France have halted those recovery efforts indefinitely last week—and two would-be thieves attempted to take advantage of the situation.

The thieves allegedly broke into the construction site and attempted to sack several fallen stones from inside the cathedral. According to Le Parisien, which first reported the news, the two men were apprehended by guards who spotted them in the early evening on March 17. A spokesperson for Notre Dame says it is believed that the men intended to sell the stones illicitly on the black market and that they had likely broken in through a fault in the construction site.

The construction site remains guarded 24 hours a day despite the construction pause. 

Notre Dame is devoid of tourists, two women stand outside the emblematic monument on March 9, 2020 in Paris. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.

The recent halt in construction will likely put a dent in the five-year timeline for restoration established by French Prime minister Emmanuel Macron—a timeline many experts already found hasty. Meanwhile, the delicate process of removing melted scaffolding, which has threatened the stability of the building since the blaze, was scheduled to begin on March 23, adding further concerns to the future of the continuously imperiled edifice. Reconstruction efforts were previously stalled when the cathedral’s debris was found to be giving off dangerous levels of toxic lead pollution.

Nevertheless, the eight months of restoration thus far have been eye-opening both to scientists and historians with new insights about the process of the cathedral’s construction from the 12th to 14th century, and the discovery of remnants of earlier church structure incorporated into the overarching plan, according to a recent article by Science magazine.

The hiatus at Notre Dame is just one of the many measures taken to protect public health in France, including the closure of all museums and limiting gatherings to 100 people. 

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