Two years after the fire in Nantes Cathedral, decontamination is progressing

Audio 01:21

Since January, about twenty workers have been working in Nantes Cathedral for lead pollution control.

The building had been the victim of a fire on July 18, 2020. © RFI - Matthieu Bonhoure

Text by: RFI Follow

2 mins

Two years after the fire that partially destroyed Nantes Cathedral, every square centimeter of the building is covered with lead.

The project costing more than two and a half million euros is titanic, but also meticulous in removing all the residues of this dangerous substance.


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With our correspondent in Nantes


Matthieu Bonhoure

You have to put on two suits, a special mask, gloves, then go through five decontamination airlocks before you can enter the nave of the Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul cathedral in Nantes,

affected by a fire

on July 18, 2020.


People who come to work can only intervene on a shift basis.

They work for two and a half hours, they have to come out of the cathedral for half an hour because it would be too dangerous for the employees

 , ”explains Anne-Marie Chépeau Malhaire, engineer in charge of decontamination and restoration work. .

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The 20 workers are wearing assisted breathing masks and coveralls.

They clean every square inch with special big vacuum cleaners.

Some areas had 90,000 micrograms of lead per square meter, while the standard is only 1,000.


We have already brought down a lot, but we will have to bring down more

 ,” notes Anne-Marie Chépeau Malhaire.


What was the hardest thing for us to achieve is that it's very big.

The vaults are 37 meters.

It's impressive

 ,” says Alexandre Godet, who supervises decontamination at height.

Hidden under protective tarpaulins to prevent lead dust from being redeposited on them, around twenty damaged paintings were treated on site.


The best for the works is to leave them in the space in which they usually are.

We mobilize certain chapels as reserves

 , ”explains Clémentine Mathurin, heritage curator.

The cleanup will be completed in September.

It will then be necessary to restore the building.

Objective: a partial reopening of the cathedral in 2025.

The workers are equipped with assisted breathing masks.

With the lead pollution, they work 2h30, then they have to go out for half an hour before they can do a second shift @RFI

— Matthieu Bonhoure (@mbonhoure) June 27, 2022


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