July 24, 2019
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European Union

France set to introduce safety measures to protect heritage after Notre-Dame

Paris, May 2 (efe-epa).- France looks set to reinforce security measures at its cathedrals and other national monuments when repair and refurbishment works are being carried out in the wake of a fire that came close to gutting Paris’s iconic Notre-Dame, officials said Thursday.

The measures were being considered despite the fact that it was not yet clear if the fire began as a direct result of restoration work that was being carried out when the flames broke out, Culture Minister Franck Riester said.

"If we can establish responsibilities, they will have consequences, with perhaps some lawsuits or sanctions but also new measures to preserve these types of sites where there is more risk," he said.

"For those who speak of a lack of maintenance at Notre Dame, a lack of resources for its restoration, those who take outrageous shortcuts, of course, there will be a before and after,” he said, adding that “lessons will be learned.”

Riester said an interview published Thursday by the newspaper "Le Parisien" that he wanted more budget allocated to preserving France’s heritage.

He insisted on being prudent about the causes that led to the Notre-Dame fire on April 15.

He said that, initially, it appeared the fire had broken out in the now disappeared spire for reasons that were not known.

He was critical of those trying to lay the blame on deficiencies in the methods used in its restoration.

He said that fortunately, the cathedral’s most fragile contents had been saved, with the exception of two paintings and two stone statues from the 18th century that were found in the transept, a space which has so far been out of bounds due to security reasons.

Riester said all the donations that had been pledged the cathedral’s reconstruction would go to it, "and not something else."

He was also critical of the controversy generated in France by the hundreds of millions of euros that big companies had pledged and those who had accused the donating firms of wanting to avoid paying taxes or of not showing the same generosity towards other causes.

"Only in France are those who give money for these types of causes, art and culture, criticized. I thank them.”

The minister justified the government bill he has pushed through to speed up the reconstruction deadlines in response to the goals set out by French President Emmanuel Macron to complete the work in five years.

“It is good that the president has an ambitious goal," he said, adding that the priority was not to be speed, but the quality of the work. “We want this restoration to be exemplary,” he said.

Riester did not want to venture whether the reconstruction work would be done to replace damaged elements identically or whether some modern parts would be added.

He said it was something that the State would decide in consultation with the diocese and Paris’ City Council.

ac/hh

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