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Minnesota timber framer helping to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral

Minnesota timber farmer helping to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral
Minnesota timber framer helping to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral 01:53

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- 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, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to resurrect the iconic cathedral within five years. Four years in, architects are celebrating a huge step toward restoration as they raise the first portion of a massive oak framework in a workshop in western France.

They're getting help from timber framer Peter Henrikson from Grand Marais, Minnesota, who says it feels like a trip back in time as he uses some of the same tools and techniques of his medieval predecessors. "I think it's amazing that people in 1100 could do all this," he says.

While it would be faster to use power tools, workers say doing it by hand pays tribute to the craftsmanship of the cathedral's original builders. Henrikson says, "It's a little mind-bending sometimes. It's fascinating to, you know, when I'm here cutting joinery, you know, swinging my mallet against a chisel, 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, including 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," says Henrikson.

Henrikson is working alongside mostly French craftsmen and says it's an honor to help bring the historic landmark back to life. Notre Dame is set to re-open by the end of next year.

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

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