#Notre-Dame #Virtual #Reality #Dives #Back in #Time

INTERNATIONAL: A new virtual reality experience allowing users to visit Notre-Dame cathedral throughout the ages launched on Wednesday giving the public an alternative way of discovering the Catholic cathedral while awaiting its reopening in 2024.

The immersive experience takes visitors through a 45-minute-long trip, complete with visual and sound effects, going from the construction of the iconic Parisian landmark to the fire that ravaged it in 2019.

Visitor and representative for image and media for BNP Paribas Bank, Carine Garcon, was at the launch event in Puteaux, near Paris: “It is quite impressive. I would say that you are a bit anxious at the start and then you completely forget about the fact that you are in an enclosed space because the environment is absolutely magnificent. You better not be afraid of heights however, it gives quite unusual feelings.”

The areas virtually recreated include the surroundings of the cathedral as it was being built in the Middle Ages, the inside of the building during a service, or the top of one of its towers, among others.

French historical figures such as French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc or former French President and general Charles de Gaulle guide people through the various eras covered.

The cultural and visitor outreach for the French Centre for national monuments, Edward de Lumley has shown his enthusiasm for the experience: “I am very impressed by the fact that this allows a dive back in time. It is not only about seeing Notre-Dame again, but about seeing Notre-Dame throughout history. The first few images of the medieval alleys and so on, I find this very strong and I think it works formidably well.”

The project was developed over two years by a team of 50 people employed by French virtual reality startup Emissive, including various historians and architects. It is fully financed by French telecom company Orange.

It will be accessible for a fee of 30 euros (or $34 dollars) per person and is expected to open later on in other cities around the world such as New York, Rome and Moscow.

The cathedral, which featured in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” is a UNESCO World Heritage, which used to see see 13 million visitors every year.

On 15 April 2019, a fire broke out beneath the roof of the Notre-Dame in Paris. By the time the structure fire was extinguished, the building’s spire had collapsed, most of its roof had been destroyed and its upper walls were severely damaged.

Extensive damage to the interior was prevented by its stone vaulted ceiling, which largely contained the burning roof as it collapsed. Many works of art and religious relics were moved to safety early in the emergency, but others suffered smoke damage, and some of the exterior art was damaged or destroyed.

French president Emmanuel Macron said that the cathedral would be restored by 2024, and launched a fundraising campaign which brought in pledges of over €1 billion.

Notre Dame is set to reopen to the public in 2024, as Paris welcomes the 2024 Olympic Games.

Rector of Notre Dame Cathedral, Patrick Chauvet spoke about the importance of such virtual experience:

“The cathedral has been closed for three years so, just imagine, that means 40 million frustrated people (that would otherwise visit). If we open in 2024, we are going to wait for another three years. So, this is the occasion for believers, visitors and tourists to be able to say ‘Well we have had the chance to see Notre-Dame in another way.’ The virtual leads to reality.”

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