France Hopes for Lotto Luck in Saving Delapidated Historical Sites

Posted on: April 6, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: April 6, 2018, 02:47h.

In France, authorities are turning to gaming revenues from the national lottery to help preserve the Gallic country’s rich architectural past.

Hundreds of French historical sites will be restored.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris will be among the first monuments to benefit from the new lottery’s revenue intake. (Image: Klook)

France is facing a serious problem with its deteriorating architectural heritage. Thousands of crumbling cathedrals and churches are in dire need of pricey repairs, and the country’s Culture Minster Francoise Nyssen has come up with a way to pay for them: a new, government-run lottery.

Nyssen says that after years of talking about it, the Heritage Lottery will finally launch later this year with the goal of raising €20 million ($24.5 million) in annual funding towards conserving disintegrating memorials.

Long List of Repairs

There are more than 2,000 monuments that have been earmarked for rehabilitation, but only a fraction of those will get immediate attention.

As the heritage coffers start to fill, the focus at first will be on the 250 monuments that are in the most immediate need of rehabilitation.

One of those is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which alone requires €150 million ($184 million) in renovations. Another major project will be the restoration of a 16th-century windmill in Brittany, while about €3 million ($3.7 million) will go towards fixing up Fort Cigogne, a former French military stronghold.

Meanwhile, some 600 of the 35,000 extant castles in France continue to fall apart.

Many of the other projects will be much smaller in scale, requiring just in the range of $12,000 to $25,000 to accomplish the necessary repairs.

The lottery announcement comes as the minister also unveiled modest increases in government heritage spending. Even accounting for that increase and the money from the new lottery, officials admit that it will barely scratch the surface of what’s required. But they say it’s a “realistic” place to start.

In all, government funding for heritage projects has dropped by about 40 percent since 2010.

Keeping History Free of Charge  

With the sheer magnitude of monuments in need of attention, much more will need to be done to save them all. One thing that France won’t do, according to the culture minister, is follow the British model, however.

Faced with the same problem, British officials opted for a more capitalistic approach and started charging entry fees to help pay for repairs. Westminster Abbey, for example, costs $28 to enter. Some have suggested France should follow suit, which has sparked charges of blasphemy, according to the UK’s The Telegraph news outlet.

“Our cathedrals are sacred places, open to all and guardians of our identity! They must thus escape the commercialisation of our society!” expounded Eric Ciotti, opposition MP.

Instead, France will try its luck with lotto and see how much traction it can get. The Heritage Lottery is expected to start in conjunction with European Heritage Days in September. It will roll out with scratch cards featuring pictures of the historical monuments that will be saved, before moving to a number draw lottery later in the year.