Monday 20 May 2019

Cathedral blaze 'rings alarm bell' for other historic European buildings

Charred: A firefighter makes his way on a balcony of the damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo: Francois Mori/AP
Charred: A firefighter makes his way on a balcony of the damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo: Francois Mori/AP

Raf Casert

Questions are being raised about the state of thousands of other cathedrals, palaces and spires across Europe following the Notre-Dame blaze.

"We are so used to our outstanding cultural heritage in Europe that we tend to forget that it needs constant care and attention," said Tibor Navracsics, the European Union's top culture official. Some say the wake-up call, not just for Europe but the world, rang in Paris.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihail­ović, head of the Europa ­Nostra heritage foundation, said it was "as if Notre-Dame decided to set itself on fire to ring the alarm bell, as if she wanted to sacrifice herself for the cause".

A 2015 study by the German engineering giant Siemens showed that Scotland had about 10 damaging fires a year, while England lost at least a dozen listed buildings annually. Germany has seen 70 such buildings destroyed since 2000.

"Every year, there's lightning or something else that destroys a tower or a roof," said Juan Antonio Herráez, who is in charge of preventive conservation at Spain's Cultural Heritage institute.

Notre-Dame donations now stand at more than €1bn, or about three years of France's national restoration budget.

This massive outpouring of donations grates on those who have begged for years for a few thousand euro to restore a local, but valuable monument.

"You have seen that, now, the money is not the problem," said Ms Quaedvlieg-­Mihailović. "There is a lesson. Could we not invest smaller amounts, and not just for the biggest and the most iconic monuments?"

Irish Independent

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