France's incoming culture minister says there is a "large consensus" that the spire of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt as it was before last year's devastating fire.


Roselyne Bachelot told French radio on Thursday that "there was a large consensus in public opinion and among those deciding" the issue for the spire to be rebuilt.

Her comments came hours before a commission that is set to rule on the thorny question was due to meet.

However, Bachelot said the final decision was in the hands of French President Emmanuel Macron, who had previously spoken in favour of adding a contemporary "touch" to the 13th century monument.

Macron vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame in less than five years after a major fire on April 15 largely destroyed the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral’s roof and spire.

The pledge prompted concern among architects, conservationists and academics from around the world, who have called for caution in restoring the badly damaged edifice.

Two days after the fire, then-Prime Minister Édouard Philippe sparked controversy by announcing that the government would hold an international architectural contest to redesign the spire, originally designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1859. Philippe expressed interest in “a new spire adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”.

Since then, some of the world's most famous architects have submitted projects. They include Britain's Norman Foster, who envisions a glass roof and a crystal spire, and Slovakia's Vizum atelier, which replaced the spire with a light beam pointing towards the sky.

But according to a YouGov opinion poll, 54 percent of French people would like the Gothic cathedral to be rebuilt as it was before the April fire, with only 25 percent opting for an “architectural initiative”.

The debate over the monument's future boiled over into a public spat late last year when the French army general charged with overseeing the rebuilding told the cathedral's chief architect to "shut his mouth".

Philippe Villeneuve, the cathedral's architect since 2013, had threatened to resign unless Notre-Dame was rebuilt the way it was.