Paris (AFP)

"If we found the rooster, it was the sign that Our Lady had to be rebuilt." Arnaud, 10 years old, came with his class, fixed fascinated the proud emblem of the spire of the cathedral, exposed to the Ministry of Culture on the eve of Heritage Days.

The sixth class of the Collège République de Bobigny is the first to enter the magnificent Salon des Maréchaux, where the press conferences and receptions of the Ministry of the Rue de Valois are usually held to house the ephemeral exhibition "Revoir Notre- Lady".

As last year, the European Heritage Days began Friday throughout France on a day reserved for schoolchildren during the initiative "Raise the eyes" sponsored by Stéphane Bern.

The Minister of Culture Franck Riester escorts the children by the grand staircase into the room decorated with gilding.

Four works sit in the middle of the ceremonial salon. Two of the statues representing the symbols of the Evangelists and the bust of the architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc in Saint-Thomas were lucky: they had been deposited a few days before the fire for their restoration. They are not in perfect condition. So one of the bronze angels has a knee crack, as Franck Riester shows the children.

"What colors have angels?" One of the children sees them "blue". "No, they are green," the minister replied amused. One of the children sees in one of the evangelists "a bird with wings".

While Arnaud said to have gone "many times" to Notre-Dame before the fire, other children do not hide their total ignorance of this landmark monument of the History of France.

It is especially the green rooster rescued from the fire that catches their eye. The fire and the violence of the fall of the top of the arrow distorted it, twisted it, badly damaged.

"The rooster was found in the rubble by Philippe Villeneuve himself, the chief architect, it was a moment of intense emotion," the minister tells the children.

- Metallic with the traditional apron -

Judith Cagan, curator of the exhibition and head of the conservation of the movable and artisanal heritage, underlines "the great knowledge" that the architect Viollet-Le-Duc had of the Gothic art in the Middle Ages and "the science and the quality of his work, during the work begun between 1858 and 1865.

Period photographs document the arrow and the building site. The names of sculptors and founders are known. Enlargements of some of the reliquary elements could answer questions still unclear, especially on painting. The angels of the arrow had been painted green in 1930.

The manual survey of the framework, carried out by two heritage architects with the help of companions of duty in 2016, completes the documentation gathered.

Another attraction of the visit is Olivier Baumgartner, who settled behind his workbench on the balcony overlooking Buren's columns at the entrance of the Royal Palace.

At the end of the visit, Franck Riester signs autographs on the balustrade.

For the duration of the Days, Saturday and Sunday, visits will be made only by reservation to the Ministry of Culture.

© 2019 AFP