PARIS - Notre-Dame Cathedral continues to draw millions in the center of Paris. But how long before it starts to collapse?
For now, at least, France's most famous cathedral still stands tall and proud. But it's not in great shape. Far from it. Pollution is eating away its stones. Detail work on the outside is disintegrating. And at least three of the flying buttresses that support the building are on the verge of falling apart.
According to a detailed report by Philippe Villeneuve , France's chief architect for historical monuments, restoring the spire would require 6-10 million euros . Fixing up the chevet and choir would be 30 million. Redoing to the sacristy would be another 10 million. "We get 5 million euros every year thanks to collections and donations. And the state pays 2 million for the building's maintenance," says André Finot , spokesperson for Notre Dame. Clearly, though, that's not enough.
A decision has been made, therefore, to seek sources of funds - including in the United States. " Finot explains ," We had a paradigm shift if we wanted to save the cathedral, so we started looking for private money .
The search for new money is a revolution for the Church , whose clerics are not in the habit of "belly dancing" before companies and potential patrons, especially when it comes to traveling abroad. But the archbishop has come to the idea, even when it involves going, hat-in-hand, across the Atlantic.
"The French, and the Parisians in particular, are already doing a lot for the churches of the capital city. The goal is to get the United States on board," the Notre-Dame Foundation explains.
Obvious signs of decay
America still remembers the pictures of GIs driving their Jeeps outside Notre Dame in 1944. The 100,000 US tourists who come to Paris every year almost always take time to visit the cathedral. There's a precedent too for help of this kind. Did not the Rockefeller family fly to the rescue of the Reims Cathedral in 1924?
"American philanthropy is legendary," says Michel Picaud , a training engineer who volunteered for the fund-seeking campaign.
A fluent English speaker, Picaud announced a roadshow for 2018 to attract patrons from Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, Houston and other major US cities. Air France is on board too, and is expected to cover airfare costs. As part of the campaign, Picaud and his colleagues have set up a foundation in the US called Friends of Notre-Dame . " Finot says," We will be traveling with photographs to show the extent of the damage .
The evidence of this decay - from broken decorative roses to headless gargoyles - is striking. From the forecourt, tourists have to twist their necks to look at the spire, which soars 96 meters. It looks proud and sharp. It is a very dangerous and dangerous thing to do. It is a very dangerous place. On the second landing, the traceries that support the stained glass windows feel like wet plaster. "Another storm and they'll fall with the stained glass windows inside the cathedral," Philippe Villeneuve warns.
Curators regularly remove, by hand, all the bits that threaten to fall and put them away in the stone warehouse, which is already full to the bursting point. "In the Middle Ages, they would extract the stones from the local quarries," the architect explains. "As time went by, they got them from further away." Blocks made from stones from different places react differently to the water. So do not cohabit well and eventually, they crack. Lime, then with plaster and finally with concrete. "
More than a place of worship
All cathedrals in France are fragile old ladies and in all of them, at least a portion of the statues are damaged . Some Parisian counterpart. But it's Our Lady's Tenor Bell, Emmanuel, that toll after the terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, in unison with the country. Indeed, the cathedral has played a central role in the city's history since the moment Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, initiated its construction in the 12th century.12th century.
Our Lady has already had its highs and lows. It was Victor Hugo's cry for help, as well as his famous novel-river (multi-part novel), published in 1831, that awoke people's consciousness to the monument's state of disrepair. Starting in 1845, architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc restored and drastically modified the cathedral. Paradoxically, the monument, which celebrated with great pomp its 850 anniversary in 2013, is suffering as much from "natural" aging as from the restoration works carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries.roman-fleuve (multi-part novel), published in 1831, that awoke people's consciousness to the monument's state of disrepair. Starting in 1845, architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc restored and drastically modified the cathedral. Paradoxically, the monument, which celebrated with great pomp its 850 anniversary in 2013, is suffering as much from "natural" aging as from the restoration works carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Regardless of who's to blame, Archbishop Chauvet, Notre-Dame's rector Archpriest, is now convinced they need to move fast. He knows the cathedral is much more than a place of worship. A world heritage site, people are also attracted by the cathedral's beauty and the performance and boldness of its builders. Our Lady draws close to 12 million tourists visit every year, more than any other Parisian monument.Chauvet, Notre-Dame's rector Archpriest, is now convinced they need to move fast. He knows the cathedral is much more than a place of worship. A world heritage site, people are also attracted by the cathedral's beauty and by the performance and boldness of its builders. Notre-Dame draws close to 12 million tourists visit every year, more than any other Parisian monument.
Just before passing the torch, the former French government signed an unprecedented agreement with the Avenir du Patrimoine Foundation in Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois and the Paris City Hall. Restoration works on the spire will begin at the end of the year.Fondation Avenir du Patrimoine in Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois and the Paris City Hall promising to match every euro received in outside donation. Restoration works on the spire will begin at the end of the year.
And if the Americans - Protestant or Catholic - are moved by the fate of a cathedral from the Middle Ages, then the choir, the nave's flying buttresses, the stained glass windows, the transept portal and many sculptures can still be saved.