France does not have big enough trees to replace Notre Dame's medieval beams

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Published April 16, 2019 3:12 p.m. ET
Updated April 16, 2019 6:00 p.m. ET
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A French cultural heritage expert says France no longer has trees big enough to replace ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire.

Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio that the wooden roof that went up in flames was built with beams more than 800 years ago from primal forests.

He says the cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

The church’s medieval roof structure, mostly made of oak, "has been lost," Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, rector of the cathedral, told CNN.

De Feydeau said the restoration work will have to use new technologies to rebuild the roof.

Meanwhile, David Elstone, executive director of B.C.-based Truck Loggers Association, said his province would not have suitable oak, but if architects required soft wood timber Canada could help.

“We probably have a tree that would suit the needs of the architects that are trying to rebuild Notre Dame,” he said.

“We grow large strong trees that you cannot find in other areas.”

The oldest trees aren’t always the largest ones when measuring a tree’s age in centuries, Elstone explained.

Only four per cent of Europe’s remaining woodland is primary forest, according to a study published last May, with none larger than 500 square kilometers outside of Russia or Northern Europe.

--- With files from the Associated Press


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