France's Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, authorities said today.
This follows months of painstaking work to secure the building which remains on course to reopen in 2024, according to officials.
The great medieval edifice survived the inferno on 15 April, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.
The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.
"The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together," said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.
"We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France's honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal."
The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on 16 April 16 - five years after the fire - despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.
Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.
The cathedral's interior walls and floors will also undergo "a thorough cleaning process" later this month.
Notre-Dame's famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.
It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Mr Georgelin, the former head of France's armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.
Soon after the April 2019 blaze, President Emmanuel Macron said the cathedral - which dates back to the 12th century - would be rebuilt by 2024, when France hosts the Olympic Games.
The final phase of efforts to secure its structure included reinforcing the fire-damaged vaults with giant wooden arch-shaped frames.
The cathedral will be restored to its previous design, including the 96-metre spire designed by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-1800s and for which new timber has been selected.