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French heritage sites 'at risk' amid lack of funds

Dan MacGuill · 9 Oct 2013, 11:52

Published: 09 Oct 2013 11:52 GMT+02:00

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The Church of Saint-Merri and the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris, two historically-significant heritage sites, have fallen into disrepair, one of them to the point of being dangerous to the public, due to insufficient investment by the Paris authorities, a leading expert on world monuments told The Local on Wednesday.

Commenting after the two churches were listed on its 2014 ‘at risk list’, the World Monuments Fund ‘s European president said Paris Town Hall, and the French government “must do more” to protect the country’s heritage.

“It’s not that French cities, who are responsible for churches, and the French state, which is responsible for cathedrals, are doing nothing towards the upkeep of these monuments,” said Bertrand Duvignaud.

“But there has been a long-running lack of serious investment in them, and these heritage sites have been neglected for a while now,” he added, noting that the churches listed in the World Monuments Fund were “just two of many worrying sites in France.”

The Eglise Saint-Merri, a Gothic 16th century church near Paris City Hall in the 4th arrondissement, has netting over its façade, to prevent injury to churchgoers and passersby from falling masonry, as well as damage to its interior.

The Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, a neoclassical 19th century church near Paris’s busy shopping street of Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement, has suffered damage to its interior over the years, with many decorative paintings falling into disrepair.

“Like many of these significant but lesser-known churches, they do not have adequate maintenance and conservation resources,” says the World Monuments Fund in its file on the French sites.

“Private organizations, parishes and local groups are trying their best to raise funds, but ultimately the responsibility lies with Paris Town Hall, since the churches are their property,” said Duvignaud.

As for the French government, according to Duvignaud it is still not doing enough to look after monuments such as Beauvais Cathedral, France’s tallest Gothic cathedral, which was on the World Monument Fund’s watch list in previous years.

Beauvais Cathedral. Photo:  Pepijntje/Wikimedia

The World Monuments Fund Watch List for 2014 details 67 heritage sites that are “at risk” in 41 countries throughout the world.

Four UK sites are in danger, according to the list, including Battersea power station in London and Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire.

In the US, the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis Missouri are among five monuments “at risk” in this year’s report.

A representative from the Paris Town Hall was not available for comment at time of writing. 

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Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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