Podcast: Notre-Dame revisited, Napoleon on Saint Helena, laughing cow turns 100

Audio 31:38
Spotlight on France episode 53
Spotlight on France episode 53 © RFI

Two years after a fire destroyed the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, archaeologists are digging through rubble to find clues to its history, and its restoration. On one of the most remote places on earth, preparations are underway for a virtual commemoration of the bicentennial of Napoleon's death. A century of La Vache qui rit cheese.


The fire that destroyed the roof and spire of Notre-Dame de Paris on 15 April 2019 made headlines all over the world. Two years later, after debates over reconstruction, the cathedral is still under wraps, with work being done to depollute the site of the lead that melted from the roof, and secure it before the restoration and reconstruction begins. We visit the site where archaeologists and workers on ropes are sorting through tonnes of charcoaled remains of the timber frame, to extract anything that could give clues to the building's past, and inform its future. (Listen @1'42'')

The tiny, volcanic island of Saint Helena is a British territory in the South Atlantic. But its most famous resident was Napoleon Bonaparte, who lived there in exile for five years before his death on 5 May 1821. Longwood, the house Napoleon occupied, is part of the French domains of Saint Helena, which have been managed by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau since the mid 1980s. He talks about living in one of the most remote places on the planet, and how Covid has interrupted plans for marking the bicentennial of Napoleon's death. (Listen @18'55'')

On 16 April 1921, Louis Bel filed for a patent for his spreadable cheese, which has since travelled the world. La vache qui rit (The laughing cow) has become an international product, cropping up in the most unexpected of places. (Listen @11'52'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app