Will Notre-Dame’s multi-million euro restoration be covered by insurance?

If you had a fire at your home, your first thought afterwards would be to make a claim on the insurance. But with ancient public monuments, it can be a little more complicated.

Will Notre-Dame's multi-million euro restoration be covered by insurance?
Is it is not clear whether Notre-Dame's insurance will cover the damage. Photo: AFP

Who owns Notre-Dame and is it insured?

The French state owns the building and is its own insurer, and thus bears the entire risk.

“It doesn't use an insurance company … which is the case with a certain number of chateaux, it is a choice,” said Dominique de la Fouchardiere, head of the SLA Verspieren firm, a specialist in insuring historical monuments and chateaux. 

Although the state owns the building, it is theoretically the archdioceses of Paris who is responsible for insuring the interior. 

Contacted by AFP, the archdioceses of Paris did not immediately respond about the insurance coverage of the artworks and objects in the interior of the cathedral.

How will the insurance be brought into play?

Most likely with the determination of the origin of the fire and if one of the firms working on the cathedral is determined to have been responsible.

“There is a major risk that in this case it will go to court given the importance of what is at stake and the determination of responsibility is complex,” said Nicolas Kaddeche at Hiscox, a specialist insurer for artworks.

With a number of different firms working on construction and renovation projects, he said it can be difficult proving who is ultimately responsible.

What kind of payout is likely?

If responsibility for the outbreak of the fire is not assigned to one of the firms working on renovating the cathedral, then the French state will be on the hook.

Thus the €700 million in private donations already pledged will be important.

However, if one of the firms working on the cathedral is determined to have been responsible, the insurance company is liable up to the amount of the policy taken out. 

How are the value of the building and artworks determined?

SLA Verspieren's de la Fouchardiere said that insurers try to evaluate the value of many of the features of national monuments, but “you can end up with an inestimable value”.

He also noted that insurance companies base their policies on estimates of the real value of a property, which should be near the cost of reconstruction, and not market value.

Concerning artworks, Kaddeche said that various levels of coverage are possible, from covering only repair costs all the way to replacement

The Swiss reinsurance firm Swiss Re told AFP that “works of art and relics are generally not insured as it is often impossible to estimate their value”.

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Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.