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Notre Dame faced €150m repair bill even before fire

16 Apr 19 Even before last night’s devastating fire, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was in much worse condition than appeared at first glance and required an estimated €150m (£130m) of repairs.

Photo by the Paris fire brigade (Pompiers de Paris - BSPP)
Photo by the Paris fire brigade (Pompiers de Paris - BSPP)

Some restoration work was under way, though it is believed that this was only a small part of the work that had been needed to restore the structure. Fundraising had been taking place to pay for the remainder; following the fire donations have been flooding in, with the total standing at €300m by Tuesday morning.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established, though terrorism and arson are believed to have been ruled out.

The Friends of Notre Dame de Paris page of the cathedral’s website says: “Unfortunately, the architectural state of the cathedral is in very bad condition. This does not appear at first glance as the façade was restored in the nineties.”

The emergency services fought the fire for hours, but the structure’s condition meant that water-bombing could not be used. They said: “All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.”

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The Friends’ webpage says that the French state had only been able to fund part of the renovation, spending approximately €2m per year currently, and up to €4m in the next 10 years. The Church of Paris therefore decided a couple of years ago to raise funds externally for the restoration of the cathedral to speed up the necessary work. It had set up an appeal in late 2016, which included targeting donors in the USA and elsewhere.

The nearly 100m-tall high spire – destroyed in the fire - and the 12 apostles that crowned it had a large number of cracks and fissures that needed immediate restoration; the ageing stonework of the flying buttresses were causing problems for the stability of the whole building; many pinnacles and gargoyles were in disrepair or had fallen down and the lead framework of the stained glass windows was weakened.

The Ministry of Culture has summarised the repairs needed repairs in a 2014 audit. The overall cost of the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris was estimated to be around €150m. “The estimate includes both the base infrastructure as well as other architectural and cultural treasures. Ideally, these renovations need to be completed within the next five years, and at the latest within 15 years,” said the Friends.

The gothic cathedral date back to the 12th century. It has belonged to the French State since the implementation of the Church &  State law of 1905. However, the Archdiocese of Paris has free use of the Cathedral on a perpetual basis.  

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