Home of hunch­back seeks funds for facelift

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — Vic­tor Hugo would be ap­palled to see the rav­ages in­flicted by time, pol­lu­tion and weather on his beloved Notre Dame, the soar­ing cathe­dral that adorns the heart of Paris.

The cel­e­brated French nov­el­ist wrote The Hunch­back of Notre Dame, pub­lished in 1831, largely to draw at­ten­tion to the glo­ries of Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture, which in his day was of­ten ne­glected or dis­fig­ured by mod­ern ad­di­tions.

With its twin tow­ers, stained-glass win­dows, gar­goyles and fly­ing but­tresses — a colos­sal achieve­ment that took more than a cen­tury to com­plete — the cathe­dral is a UNESCO World Her­itage site that draws be­tween 12 and 14 mil­lion visi­tors each year.

Though the French govern­ment cur­rently spends 2 mil­lion eu­ros ($2.3 mil­lion) a year for main­te­nance work, the con­ser­va­tion to-do list is grow­ing long.

Gar­goyles that have lost their heads have been fixed up with un­sightly plas­tic tubes for water drainage. Else­where, an en­tire stone balustrade is miss­ing, re­placed by ply­wood; a pin­na­cle has crum­bled and a stained-glass win­dow’s frame is in a sorry state of re­pair.

Dec­o­ra­tive de­tails that have fallen away from fly­ing but­tresses have been set aside for safe­keep­ing.

The cen­tral lead-clad wooden spire, which rises 93 me­ters above the cathe­dral roof and weighs 250 met­ric tons, is also in need of costly restora­tion.

The lead, meant to pro­tect the spire from the el­e­ments, is wear­ing thin, noted govern­ment con­ser­va­tion­ist MarieHe­lene Di­dier.

Paris is sound­ing the alarm, seek­ing do­na­tions, no­tably from US pa­trons, to help pay for the work, pledg­ing to match up to 4 mil­lion eu­ros do­nated to a her­itage fund.

An­dre Finot, a spokesman for the cathe­dral, who knows Notre Dame’s ev­ery nook and cranny, is lead­ing the fund­ing drive.

“It’s re­ally ur­gent,” he said dur­ing a tour of the dev­as­ta­tion caused by air pol­lu­tion and acid rain.

“You re­al­ize that funds) are not enough.” (state

By his es­ti­mate, the bill could come to at least 150 mil­lion eu­ros over 30 years.

Notre Dame won some US star power in Septem­ber 2014 when pop idol Bey­once and her rap­per hus­band Jay Z and daugh­ter Blue Ivy, then 2, en­joyed a pri­vate tour of the mon­u­ment.

Tourists from the US are par­tic­u­larly en­thralled by Hugo’s Quasi­modo and other char­ac­ters in The Hunch­back of Notre Dame, im­mor­tal­ized in myr­iad films, plays and mu­si­cals.

“We are not in a sit­u­a­tion of danger, we still man­age to han­dle the most ur­gent needs,” said Di­dier. But pri­vate do­na­tions “would al­low us to speed up the work”.

While France is spread­ing the net wide in search of con­tri­bu­tions, “we will still be ap­peal­ing to the French,” Finot said. “They should be con­scious of the in­cred­i­ble her­itage they have.”

MARTIN BUREAU / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The roof of Notre-Dame cathe­dral in Paris, which is in need of large- scale restora­tion due to pol­lu­tion, weather and wear and tear.

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