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The reinforced cement framework

Make no mistake, the framework of Reims Cathedral is not made of wood but of... reinforced cement!

On September 19, 1914, a fire consumed the wooden framework 1800 tons of oak beams were lost, along with the 400 tons of lead roofing!

Later, two people contributed to the restoration of Reims Cathedral:

  • John Davidson Rockefeller Jr .
    A major oil industrialist, philanthropist and Francophile, Rockefeller made several donations from 1924 onwards. These covered 37% of the total cost of the project!
  • Henri Deneux 
    Chief architect of historic monuments, who designed an innovative framework.

He was inspired by a process invented in the 16th century by Renaissance architect Philibert Delorme. Delorme conceived of a framework structure composed of small wooden elements assembled by wedges.

Henri Deneux used the same principle for the structure of Reims Cathedral, but replaced the wooden elements with reinforced cement . Planks are assembled using mortise and tenon joints.

It's a real technical feat : economically manufactured on site, the elements are easy to transport (because they're lighter), and are assembled like a set of "Meccano "!

The new structure, built between 1924 and 1926, is inexpensive, fireproof, lightweight and can be dismantled as required.

Did you know that you can see it up close when you visit the cathedral's towers ?

Charpente en béton du XXè siècle de la cathédrale de Reims

© Jean-Pierre Delagarde / Centre des monuments nationaux

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