A Pittance for Culture
An article in Le Figaro, dated January 19, discusses Minister of Culture Christine Albanel's plan to use some of the money being allocated for restoration of historical monuments towards the preservation of cathedrals:
In 2009, of the 100 million euros allocated for major projects, as part of the relaunching of the economy, 70 million will go to the restoration of historical monuments, and 30 million for other cultural development projects such as the Mucem, a future museum in Marseilles devoted to the theme of Euro-Mediterranean, the center for archives in Pierrefitte, the restoration of the Richelieu quadrilateral of the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library), the Tokyo Palace and the renovation of Versailles.
Note: The Tokyo Palace is a museum of modern and contemporary art.
Note: The National Library of France began as the royal library in 1368 and was housed in the Louvre which was then the palace of the kings. In 1868 it was moved to the rue de Richelieu. In 1988 François Mitterand announced the construction of a new branch to be built on the banks of the Seine. It opened in 1996.
For some views of the Richelieu branch, click here.
For a view of the Mitterand branch click here.
Concerning the historical monuments, Albanel has chosen two goals: the renovation of the cathedrals and the reactivation of local projects that have slowed down. Fifteen million euros will be granted to small towns that have pinpointed their needs: "I hope to give priority to things that can be jump-started quickly, in order to fully participate in the economic recovery," said the minister.
Beginning April 4, persons under the age of 25 and the entire teaching corps will have access to the permanent collections of museums free of charge. They will also have free access to national monuments such as the Arc of Triumph and Mont-Saint-Michel. There are 850,000 teachers and potentially 6 milllion young persons. The French State will cover these costs. "Whatever it is, the State will cover it so as not to increase the burden on the institutions," explains Albanel. The free entries will have to be recorded by the institutions (...)
Work has already been planned for Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, on the transept of the Bordeaux cathedral, and on the stained-glass windows of the cathedrals of La Rochelle (above) and Strasbourg.
Le Conservateur, who knows something about art (I can't help wondering if he chose his pseudo for two reasons: first, political, second professional), says that the amount of money being allocated is ridiculously low:
70 million euros - a ridiculously small amount, compared to the needs of a heritage often in disastrous condition, especially in certain towns hit hard by the crisis or in charge of too many buildings. Let's remember that the Museum of the First Arts alone cost almost 300 million euros.
Note: This refers to the Branly Museum, one of Chirac's pet projects, a museum of primitive African, Asian, and Polynesian art, among others. It opened amidst much fanfare in June 2006.
The State, with its great, and totally unjustified, capacity for borrowing, that will probably be reduced over time as the prospects for reimbursement recede, has the means to launch today a multi-billion euro plan to preserve for the coming decades both great monuments and the smaller ones that are rapidly vanishing. A wide-ranging plan would also support and develop the arts and the guilds that represent a French specialty, a preservation of precious knowledge, and a pathway into the working world of the highest quality.
But the Right (i.e. the Establishment Right) prefers to finance wind machines, bypasses, and shopping malls that will stay open on Sundays, and to pour concrete over France...
This announcement is one more of Sarkozy's insults to his voters, and to common sense. I don't think that Mme Albanel should be blamed, but if this lady had the slightest integrity, she would have resigned long ago.
The coin showing an image of Gallic warrior Vercingetorix, who was defeated by Julius Caesar, is from the collection at the Richelieu branch of the National Library.
The photo at the top, of the church in La Rochelle, is from Webshots. It may or may not be the cathedral mentioned in Le Figaro's article. But it is a beautiful photo anyway. I wish people who post photos online would identify them.
As so often happens I spent much more time than planned posting this short article. Caught up in the many photos of the National Library, the cathedrals, scenes from La Rochelle, etc... I was reminded (as if it were necessary) of the endless wealth of art, architecture, and priceless historical documents that reside in France, and how to neglect them in any way is a crime against the French people and a mockery of the tremendous, incalculable efforts made through the centuries to build up this heritage. The history of the National Library alone is a compelling tale of royal devotion to and support of the intellectual output of the people, and a testimony to the monarchy's commitment to preserving a national identity.