Notre-Dame de Paris

Adopt a gargoyle: Notre-Dame restoration gets new crowdfunding boost

Gargoyles of Notre-Dame cathedral preserved from the blaze that raced through the landmark monument, Paris, 17 April 2019.
Gargoyles of Notre-Dame cathedral preserved from the blaze that raced through the landmark monument, Paris, 17 April 2019. AP - Thibault Camus

A new fundraising scheme has been set up to assist with the restoration of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral after the 2019 fire, encouraging contributors to "adopt" a piece of history at the 12-century Gothic landmark.

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The Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris last week launched the website restorenotredame.org, which allows people to sponsor precious artworks, artefacts or even gargoyles that were damaged in the 2019 fire.

The blaze brought down the cathedral's towering spire and roof. The majority of the structure remained intact thanks to the rib vaulting, which saved centuries of priceless heritage central to French culture and history. 

Among the precious relics: what is said to be Jesus' crown of thorns and a part of the cross from his crucifixion, as well as the Tunic of St Louis.

The item which had generated most interest and emotion was probably the 14th-century Virgin of the Pillar, which "attracts the attention of believers because it is the Virgin Mary in all her beauty and significance", according to Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris president, Michel Picaud.

New mission

The group was first set up in 2017 to raise 110 million euros to repair damage caused by wear and tear and pollution, as well as inferior materials used in the original construction. No major restoration work had been carried out on the monument since the mid-19th century. 

Notre-Dame de Paris: Rebuilding two years after the fire
Notre-Dame building site two years after the fire
Notre-Dame building site two years after the fire © RFI/Lucile Gimberg

The 2019 fire caused an outpouring of international concern – and gave the mission of the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris even greater urgency. Over 830 million euros has since been donated from more than 150 countries.

Two years on, the repairs are well underway, but lengthy and complex operations remain in order to achieve the ambitious target set by President Emmanuel Macron of restoring the cathedral to its former glory and reopening to the public by April 2024.

The cause of the inferno that transfixed viewers the world over remains uncertain, but investigators have so far rejected any idea of foul play, suggesting a short-circuit or a discarded cigarette could have been to blame.

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