Notre-Dame Isn’t The Only Thing Crumbling: France Needs 2 Billion Euros for Their Monuments

The Chateau de Vigny, one of the patrimoine locations Fondation du Patrimoine is trying to save. Image courtesy of Fondation du Patrimoine Facebook page.

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Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral isn’t the only structure to save in France.

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This is the message that Stéphane Bern and the Fondation du patrimoine want to convey, one month after the disastrous fire in the cathedral. “The mission I am leading for the President of the Republic has made it possible to determine a figure: two billion euros must be raised to finance the ongoing work on historic monuments,” explained Bern on Le Journal du Dimanche website. “Architects of historical monuments and buildings in France classify the most fragile sites for the State in terms of number of stars. Some monuments are wholly in a state of emergency; for others, the emergency is targeted to a part of the building or a certain aspect, such as old electrical circuits in churches.”

In total, there are about 2,800 monuments that need to be repaired as soon as possible. The list, available on the foundation’s website, includes bridges, municipal theatres, museums, belfries, castles, famous villas, a large number of churches and even the structure of Mont-Saint-Michel. “We must make good use of this outpouring of support for heritage that reached its peak with the Notre-Dame fire,” emphasizes Bern. “The surge of generosity must be channeled to save as many monuments as possible.”

“Plus Jamais Ça !” campaign. Image from the Fondation du Patrimoine website.

“Notre-Dame has been provided for”: This is why the Fondation du patrimoine has decided to close its fundraising for Notre-Dame, after having raised nearly 220 million euros in one month. It’s launching a new campaign entitled “Never again!”, illustrated by images of collapsed or burned sites, intended to mobilize the generosity of the French to donate to an emergency fund to save the most threatened sites. On France Info, Guillaume Poitrinal, the head of the foundation, estimated that the collection for Notre-Dame had “filled up” with more than 220,000 donations recorded for its foundation alone. In total, including all the donations from the various organizations involved, the money raised amounted to one billion euros, which today seems like enough.

Poitrinal also proposed reallocating the sums. However, he made the distinction between small and large donors: according to him, the former should be treated as a priority and the money collected should be invested in Notre-Dame. But for large donors, the ideal is to transfer the sums to the other monuments to be saved. “Let’s go to them, if there’s too much money, and suggest that they take care of the rest of the crumbling French heritage.” On this subject, he points out that novelist Ken Follett has already said that the proceeds of the unpublished story he is about to publish on Notre-Dame go directly to other sites to be renovated. Several tens of millions of euros could thus be quickly redirected to other monuments, if an agreement is reached with the companies and other major donors.

The Bleus de Bar theatre, in the Meuse region, that Fondation du Patrimoine is raising funds for. Image from the Fondation du Patrimoine website.

Le Point pointed out a week after the cathedral fire, the question of the financial surplus would inevitably arise someday: the cost of the work could be around 500 million euros for a collection estimated at one billion euros. For the time being, no provisional budget has yet been revealed to the public on the exact amount of work to be undertaken, and the archdiocese has continued to call for donations through the Notre-Dame Foundation. The first couple millions were quickly used to reinforce the structures, remove the stained glass windows, temporarily cover the building, secure the site, install sensors on the stones to determine their condition, and install a floor near the vaults. The site is now protected from the elements and the Archbishop of Paris is eager to worship again in the choir, in very small groups. According to relatives, he is even ready to put a construction helmet on his Bishop’s cap to reach the altar.

This article was written by  and published on Le Point.

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