The State of Parisian Churches : the World Monument Fund Denounces the Scandal

Detail of a mural painting by Henri Lehmann
in the church of Saint-Merri in Paris
Photo : Didier Rykner

8/10/13 - Endangered heritage - Paris, Parisian churches - The mission of the World Monument Fund is to help safeguard architectural masterpieces from serious threat, by contributing to their restoration in association with the official institutions in charge of their conservation and by publishing on a biyearly basis a list of monuments considered to be in peril, whose survival is gravely compromised due to"forces of nature and the impact of social, political and economic change."

Today, on 8th October, in New York, the World Monument Fund thus revealed its list for 2014. Among these imperilled monuments, it points out two Parisian churches, Notre Dame de Lorette and Saint Merri. We cannot however say they have been endangered by forces of nature or by social, political or economic change. The City of Paris is far from being poor. It simply has other priorities besides maintaining its heritage. The disaster is not a natural one, but rather political. The first person responsible for this state of affairs is Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris for the last twelve years, and secondly, Anne Hidalgo, first deputy assistant in charge of Urbanization and Architecture.
This constitutes a veritable slap in the face for the team at Paris City Hall which now sees its negligence proclaimed publicly by a major non-governmental association from its headquarters in New York. The World Monument Fund could also have included other Parisian churches in this same list : Saint Augustin, Saint Jean de Belleville, Saint Séverin, Saint Vincent de Paul... The list of Parisian monuments facing severe danger is endless.

Three years ago we initiated a series on the subject starting with Saint Philippe du Roule. Given the urgency of other matters, we had interrupted our articles. The World Monument Fund’s decision to include these two churches on their endangered monuments list now forces us to pick up the matter again and tomorrow we will publish two articles treating the churches, each accompanied by a very edifying video.
Since the publication of the first article in the series, the situation has become even worse despite a few restorations undertaken by the Coarc, the city department in charge of preserving religious and lay art objects. Since it lacks the necessary budget for restoring the roof of Saint Philippe du Roule (they first had to build the Canopée at Les Halles and the Jean Bouin sports stadium...), this church was provided with a temporary cover, held up with scaffoldings. We can easily imagine how much this cost, in no way helping toward a real restoration, and thus evaluate the lack of serious bookkeeping applied at Paris City Hall.

With municipal elections looming a few months away, a debate needs to be held on the subject. Not satisfied with scarring Paris with its demolitions (the Molitor pool, the Samaritaine (article in French), the Place de la République...), with threatening further destruction (the gardens at the Serres d’Auteil...) and monstruous construction of buildings (Tour Triangle (in French), the Canopée at Les Halles), City Hall is progressively disengaging itself entirely from its historical heritage. It will now be held accountable, even outside of France by international observers.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 8 octobre 2013

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