The new golden rooster is seen atop of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral.(Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)


Macron crows as Notre-Dame chicken-topped spire unveiled but missed deadlines may clip his wings


The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris unveiled its new spire – topped with a golden rooster.

While the event on March 7 marked an important milestone, the race has been on to meet French President Emmanuel Macron’s high-stakes promise for a full, finished rebuild of the Notre-Dame damage “within five years” following the 2019 blaze that destroyed its roof and the previous spire on April 15 that year.

“We will rebuild Notre-Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years,” Macron told a distraught nation in a television address the night after the blaze.

Strictly speaking, he will miss that goal, which was initially to reopen the Cathedral, at least partially, this April  – in time for tourists trekking to Paris for the Summer Olympic Games in the city this year.

Now, the aim is for a “partial opening” by the coming December.

“Deadlines will be met. It is a formidable image of hope and of a France that has rebuilt itself,” Macron said in December 2023.

For many, the danger for Macron goes beyond a missed deadline.

“Macron is using the reconstruction to promote himself,” argued Eva Hirschi, CEO of, which describes itself as a “Swiss research network for journalists”.

The latest Cathedral milestone came just as France established abortion as a Constitutional right, noted Catholic writer Ashley Lande.

“I heard an interview with Macron after Notre-Dame burned and have never forgotten what he said: ‘People like to have a sense of religion about their lives,’” said Lande, author of The Thing That Would Make Everything Okay Forever, which “tells my story of psychedelic devastation and spiritual rescue”.

Others have criticised Macron for his authorities apparently having influenced artistic decisions, including replacing stained-glass windows in six of the seven side chapels on the Cathedral’s South aisle with what is regarded as contemporary ones.

“Who gave the Head of State the mandate to alter a Cathedral that does not belong to him but to everyone?” queried Didier Rykner, editor of La Tribune de l’Art and who is a high-profile French artistic commentator.

New stained-glass windows could instead go in the Cathedral’s North tower, where they might be seen to honour the firefighters who fought to save the building, noted Rykner.

In that part of the Cathedral, there are bays with white skylights rather than stained glass windows.

Installing stained-glass windows in their place would “enhance the Cathedral”, Rykner insisted.

Macron has backtracked somewhat from an initial suggestion the rebuilt spire could be “inventive” and represent a “contemporary gesture” after the idea had provoked widespread opposition.

Given a golden rooster now sits atop the Cathedral, albeit it allegedly containing relics including purported fragments of Christ’s crown of thorns, it seems to some to be in danger of straying into almost Pythonesque comedic territory.

Still, the 1859 spire did have a copper rooster in that position, serving as a weather vane.

Today, the chicken has been reimagined partly as a phoenix – ie, a rooster rising from flames – as a symbol of resilience.

To be fair, the mighty chicken image dates to the Middle Ages and is a pun on the similarity in Latin between “Gallus”, an inhabitant of Gaul and “gallus”, a rooster. The chicken also appears on the jersey of French national football team “Les Bleus”.

Many feel that, for Macron, who had a disapproval rating of 68 per cent in December 2023 polls, tampering with one of Paris’ most famous landmark carries as many risks as missing deadlines to reconstruct it.