Notre-Dame needs your help! Les Amé­ri­cains ap­pe­lés à la res­cousse.

Notre-Dame a be­soin de vous !

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire - AURELIEN BREEDEN

De­puis le par­vis, Notre-Dame pa­raît si belle. Mais si vous pre­nez le temps d’en faire le tour, vous ver­rez des gar­gouilles sans tête, des ba­lus­trades mal en point, une flèche à bout de souffle... La ca­thé­drale a grand be­soin d’une res­tau­ra­tion de fond. Pour fi­nan­cer ces tra­vaux, elle lance un ap­pel aux mé­cènes amé­ri­cains.

Bro­ken gar­goyles and fal­len ba­lus­trades re­pla­ced by plas­tic pipes and woo­den planks. Flying but­tresses dar­ke­ned by pol­lu­tion and ero­ded by rain­wa­ter. Pin- nacles prop­ped up by beams and held to­ge­ther with straps.

2.Lit­tle of that de­te­rio­ra­tion is im­me­dia­te­ly vi­sible to the mil­lions of awe-struck tou­rists who vi­sit the Notre Dame Ca­the­dral in Pa­ris eve­ry year, ma­ny of them too bu­sy ad­mi­ring the in­tri­ca­te­ly sculp­ted front to no­tice the wear and tear.

3.But on a recent af­ter­noon, An­dré Fi­not, the ca­the­dral’s spo­kes­man, poin­ted out the de­cay. One patch of li­mes­tone crum­bled at a fin­ger’s touch.

4.“Eve­ryw­here the stone is ero­ded, and the more the wind blows, the more all of these lit­tle pieces keep fal­ling,” said Fi­not, gin­ger­ly step­ping over fal­len chunks of stone on the ca­the­dral’s roof­top walk­way. “It’s spin­ning out of con­trol eve­ryw­here.”

5.This is not the first time that the ca­the­dral, a je­wel of me­die­val Go­thic ar­chi­tec­ture, has re­qui­red an ex­ten­sive ma­keo­ver. But ex­perts say Notre Dame, al­though not at risk of sud­den col­lapse, has rea­ched a tip­ping point — and an ex­pen­sive one at that.

6.To foot the bill — an es­ti­ma­ted 150 mil­lion eu­ros — they are ho­ping to ca­pi­ta­lize not on­ly on the ar­chi­tec­tu­ral pa­trio­tism of the French, but al­so on the fran­co­phi­lia of US do­nors.

7.“There is a real need for urgent res­to­ra­tion work,” said Mi­chel Pi­caud, who heads the new­ly crea­ted Friends of Notre-Dame de Pa­ris foun­da­tion, which aims to raise mo­ney in the Uni­ted States.

8.Notre Dame de Pa­ris, which sits at the heart of the ca­pi­tal, is on ma­ny people’s to-do lists, in­clu­ding the likes of Me­la­nia Trump and Beyon­cé. It is part of a “sen­ti­men­tal bond” bet­ween France and the Uni­ted States, for­ged through war­time al­liances, com­mon va­lues and a re­ci­pro­cal fas­ci­na­tion for each other’s culture, Pi­caud ar­gued.


9.Built in the 12th and 13th cen­tu­ries, Notre Dame re­cei­ved one of its most si­gni­fi­cant ove­rhauls bet­ween 1844 and 1864, when the ar­chi­tects Las­sus and Viol­let-le-Duc re­did the spire and the flying but­tresses and ad­ded se­ve­ral ar­chi­tec­tu­ral tweaks.

10.That res­to­ra­tion fol­lo­wed de­cades of ne­glect and par­tial da­mage at the hands of French re­vo­lu­tio­na­ries, and was promp­ted in part by Vic­tor Hu­go’s pu­bli­ca­tion of his 1831 no­vel “Notre-Dame of Pa­ris,” which shone a light on the buil­ding’s de­cre­pit state.

11.“As­su­red­ly, the Ca­the­dral of Notre-Dame at Pa­ris is, to this day, a ma­jes­tic and su­blime edi­fice,” Hu­go wrote. “But noble as it has re­mai­ned while gro­wing old, one can­not but re­gret, can­not but feel in­di­gnant at the in­nu­me­rable de­gra­da­tions and mu­ti­la­tions in­flic­ted on the ve­ne­rable pile, both by the ac­tion of time and the hand of man.”

12.The words ring true today. “Here we are 150 years or so af­ter he wrote that, and it works again now,” said An­drew Tal­lon, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of ar­chi­tec­ture and art his­to­ry at Vas­sar Col­lege. 13.Notre Dame, he said, now faces a “ve­ry ex­ci­ting — if not sca­ry — si­tua­tion, where it needs all its help.”

14.Wa­ter re­gu­lar­ly seeps through cracks in the lead-co­ve­red spire, wea­ke­ning its woo­den frame. Rain, some of it acid, is slow­ly ero­ding the flying but­tresses and their de­co­ra­tive pin­nacles, built with de­li­cate li­mes­tone.

15.Gar­goyles have fal­len to the ground and have been re­pla­ced with PVC pipes. On a small lawn at the back of the ca­the­dral, ma­son­ry that has bro­ken away or that was ta­ken down as a pre­cau­tio­na­ry mea­sure over the years has been neat­ly pi­led up.

16.Phi­lippe Ville­neuve, the chief ar­chi­tect in charge of the ca­the­dral’s re­no­va­tion, ex­plai­ned that Notre-Dame is tri­cky to res­tore be­cause in Go­thic ar­chi­tec­ture “the ele­ments all have dy­na­mic struc­tu­ral roles.”

17.Pin­nacles, for ins­tance, help an­chor and sta­bi­lize the flying but­tresses, which take on the weight of the ca­the­dral. The twis­ted and mo­cking faces of the gar­goyles serve as much to de­co­rate as they do to eva­cuate rain­wa­ter. 18.“If you re­move one of those ele­ments, there is a di­se­qui­li­brium so­mew­here,” Ville­neuve said. “The whole buil­ding isn’t going to crumble just be­cause you lose th­ree pin­nacles, but it will un­ba­lance it.”


19.The Friends of Notre-Dame foun­da­tion es­ti­mates that it needs near­ly $40 mil­lion for urgent re­pairs, and it hopes to raise more than $110 mil­lion in the next de­cade for com­plete re­no­va­tions.

20.The French state, which owns the ca­the­dral, al­rea­dy de­votes up to 2 mil­lion eu­ros a year in up­keep, or about $2.4 mil­lion. It re­cent­ly pled­ged to double that amount for the next 10 years, ac­cor­ding to Pi­caud.

21.The Friends of Notre-Dame Foun­da­tion has just be­gun fun­drai­sing with a small group of vo­lun­teers. Pi­caud said that group plan­ned to or­ga­nize ga­la din­ners, concerts and other events in France and the US.

22.Fi­not, the spo­kes­man, said it was im­por­tant to em­pha­size that the ca­the­dral is not just a re­li­gious edi­fice, but a shared heritage. “My great­grand­pa­rents, even those be­fore them, ad­mi­red this mo­nu­ment,” he said. “I don’t see my­self co­ming with my own great grand­kids to vi­sit a pile of ruins.”

(Kos­tyu­kov/The New York Times)

Fal­len stones on the roof of the Notre Dame Ca­the­dral in Pa­ris.

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