Minnesota carpenter helps rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 11:26 AM CDT
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PARIS (Valley News Live/CBS News) - A carpenter from Minnesota is using his woodworking skills to help rebuild the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A devastating fire tore through the roof four years ago.

When flames engulfed Notre Dame in 2019, the French President vowed to resurrect the iconic cathedral within five years. Four years in, architects are celebrating a huge step toward restoration by raising a portion of the new roof with help from Minnesota carpenter Peter Henrikson.

He says it feels like a trip back in time, using some of the same tools and techniques of his medieval predecessors.

“I think it’s amazing that people in 1100 could do all this,” said the timber farmer from Minnesota.

It would be faster to use power tools, but workers say doing it by hand pays tribute to the craftsmanship of the cathedral’s original builders.

“It’s a little mind-bending sometimes. Just think about there were medieval carpenters cutting this basically the same joint 900 years ago.”

Artisans are using some modern technology to speed up reconstruction, such as computer images to ensure their hand-chiseled beams fit together perfectly.

“The traditional carpenters had a lot of that in their head - they had sketches.”

Henrikson is working alongside mostly French craftsmen and says it’s an honor to to help bring this historic landmark back to life.

French officials cut down more than 1,000 historic oak trees in some 200 forests across the country to rebuild the cathedral’s fire-ravaged roof and iconic spire.