France wants to restore its village churches… but who is going to pay?

The government is looking at implementing a subscription model in a bid to fund restoration work for small churches in France

Many old churches in France could benefit from funding and restoration
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France has launched a new campaign to improve its crumbling village churches.

The Elysée put forward the initiative on Monday (June 5) as part of a wider campaign to classify cultural buildings as historic monuments to help their preservation.

The plan was unveiled as part of a visit by President Emmanuel Macron to the historic site of Mont-Saint-Michel (Manche, Normandy).

President Macron wants to “open the door to the launching of a subscription that will be specifically dedicated to religious buildings”, it said. The president added that people in France are already open to this idea, given that many participate in the Loto du patrimoine (heritage lottery), which was launched during Mr Macron’s first term.

Read more: 18 French heritage sites to benefit from lottery cash

A statement from the Elysée said: “When you see the extent of generosity towards Notre-Dame-de-Paris…[we see that] calling on the involvement of people in France, and perhaps even a certain number of foreigners, in favour of a specific heritage…

“Well, we thought it was right that this subscription tool could be used again.”

It said: “Preserving our heritage is one of the priorities of the French President's cultural policy.”

Read more: Notre Dame fire: New cause investigated as 2024 service date confirmed

Read more: Macron: Notre-Dame will be rebuilt as fund nears €1bn

France’s finance ministry said that it was considering whether any eventual subscription fees would enable the donor to benefit from a tax deduction, and would “study” the question between now and September.

Historical monument classification

Around 10,500 religious buildings are currently classified as historic monuments, out of around 50,000 sites in France (of which 42,000 are Catholic).

This has led Mr Macron to ask the interior minister and culture minister to give him a “clearer picture” of the current situation of these buildings, before the next European Heritage Days (Journées européennes du patrimoine), on September 16 and 17, reported AFP news agency.

In its statement, the Elysée added that France’s culture ministry would begin to classify religious buildings as historical monuments if their heritage justified it. These will especially include those built in the 19th and 20th centuries, it said. The classification will be “based on a set of historical, artistic, scientific and technical criteria", the statement added.

"There is progress to be made in taking into consideration the originality of these buildings, the quality of their surroundings, their decorative elements [and] the quality of their architecture,” the statement said.

It added: “Today we are perhaps better able to appreciate them than we were a few decades ago.”

The statement from the Elysée added that the Interior Minister had spent €57million in 2022 on religious heritage restoration, and had spent €280million on 8,265 projects over the past five years.

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