JUPILLES, France — In a former royal forest in France, four 200-year-old oaks are being felled for wood to reconstruct Notre Dame cathedral’s fallen spire.

Last July, French president Emmanuel Macron ended speculation over the reconstruction plans, announcing that the iconic spire of the Paris monument would be rebuilt exactly as it was before the April 2019 blaze that severely damaged the cathedral. That began a nationwide tree hunt.

The 93-metre-high spire, made of wood and clad in lead, was designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1859.

In January and February, some 1,000 oaks in more than 200 French forests were selected for the frame of the transept and spire. They are all set to be felled by the end of March, to prevent tree sap and moisture from entering the material.

The next step for the trunks from the Forest of Berce in the Loire region is for them to be laid out for up to a year and a half before being ready to cut.

The trees were originally planted hundreds of years ago to create wood for shipbuilding. Many of them now measure some 1 meter wide and 18 meters high.

Macron’s pledge to rebuild Notre Dame within five years — by 2024 — has been widely dismissed as unrealistic.