The burning of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, caused a great deal of emotion in France and around the world. An unprecedented surge of generosity has made it possible to mobilize the funds needed to restore this major French heritage building, which is now entering its final stretch.
In 2019, the Ministry of Culture decided to strengthen the safety of the 87 cathedrals owned by the State. Beyond the safety of the people they receive, the ministry now acts for the safety of the monuments and the works they house, through the plan «safety of cathedrals».
A “safety plan for cathedrals” launched in October 2019
The Ministry of Culture has identified a series of measures to increase the level of safety of the 87 cathedrals, implemented by the Regional Cultural Affairs Directorates (DRAC) which are responsible for the maintenance and restoration of cathedrals. From 2020, major works have been started.
In 2021 and 2022, the Ministry of Culture spent more than €167 million on cathedrals, including €25 million on securing them.
Government efforts are bearing fruit:
- the effort to restore cathedrals is concretely reflected, for example, in Orléans, Rodez, Puy-en-Velay and Dijon where major campaigns of works are ending;
- the overall level of safety of the cathedrals has been clearly noted: installation of technical equipment such as dry columns facilitating the intervention of firefighters, overlapping of the attics by walls cut-offfire, installation or improvement of fire safety systems, etc.;
- awareness of the risks is now acquired by the various actors (diocese, fire brigade, DRAC);
- the evacuation and protection of works in the event of a disaster are now facilitated thanks to the formalisation of 66 plans for safeguarding cultural property (PSBC), compared to 13 in 2019. Others will follow in the coming months. This work, carried out in conjunction with the Diocese and the Fire Fighters (SDIS), is accompanied by an intervention exercise, in the process of generalization;
- the number of visits to the cathedrals of safety advisors of the Ministry of Culture doubled from 2020 to 2022.
In 2023, an amplification of the plan «safety cathedrals»
Building on the feedback, the Minister of Culture decided to complement the “safety of cathedrals” plan with new actions:
- the widespread installation of thermal cameras in cathedrals, following their experiments at Notre-Dame de Paris and Saint-Pierre de Beauvais. These thermal cameras make it possible to detect heat zones before the appearance of fire fumes, thus to intervene more quickly, as well as to detect intrusions;
- the implementation of measures to improve safety during work periods (specific fire detection, intensification of control rounds, remote monitoring);
- the elimination of electrical installations at risk, not necessary for the conservation or operation of cathedrals (telephone antennas, electric heating systems, certain outdoor lighting networks);
- the strengthening of the “safety of cathedrals” plan also involves the deepening of safety and security audits, similar to the comprehensive audits carried out in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Occitanie and Ile-de-France;
- the support of external experts, with the DRAC, to accompany the Architects of the buildings of France in their role of sole responsible of security due to 2 days and a half per month for each cathedral.
To take this new step in the restoration and strengthening of cathedrals, the Minister of Culture mobilized in 2023 a budget of 52 million euros for cathedrals (excluding Notre-Dame de Paris), or 23% more than in 2022 (excluding the recovery plan). Within this budget, 40 million will be spent on restoration work (of the cathedrals of Clermont-Ferrand and Beauvais for example) and 12 million for fire safety.