UK author Ken Follett donates €150,000 to Brittany cathedral

The writer of The Pillars of the Earth has sold the copyright to his novel Notre-Dame , to contribute to a €2.4 million restoration project of a key gothic cathedral in France

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British author Ken Follett, who once lived in France, has sold the copyright of his book Notre-Dame in order to give almost €150,000 to help restore a prominent gothic cathedral in Brittany.

Mr Follett, author of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, published the novel Notre-Dame after the infamous fire of the Paris cathedral, of April 15, 2019. It sold more than 113,000 copies worldwide.

Now, he is selling his rights to the book to French heritage group la Fondation du patrimoine.

The money raised will help restore the Saint-Samson cathedral in Dol-de-Bretagne, Brittany. The building is seen as an important example of gothic architecture in the region.

A statement from the foundation said: “Ken Follett has donated his entire copyright to la Fondation du patrimoine. Together, they have chosen to use this donation for the restoration and security work on another cathedral, that of Dol-de-Bretagne, supported by the Foundation.

“The Foundation will soon pay a sum of €148,000.”

Speaking in French to news network BFMTV, Mr Follett said: “French churches and old buildings have given me a huge amount of pleasure. And that is why I have given all my author copyright from Notre-Dame to la Fondation du patrimoine.”

Mr Follett said he did not wish to profit from writing about the stricken cathedral Notre-Dame.

The book Notre-Dame was not the first time Mr Follett had written about a cathedral wracked by fire; his famous 1989 work The Pillars of the Earth also depicted the fire of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge.

Saint-Samson: A jewel in Brittany’s crown

Photo: GO69 / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Saint-Samson cathedral has been considered an official historic monument in France since 1840, and dates back to the year 555. It has been described as a ‘jewel in Brittany’s crown’.

Yet, it has suffered from degeneration over the years.

The frame and roof are no longer watertight, the granite balustrades are damaged, and some walls need replacing. Crucially, four 13th century stained glass windows - the oldest stained glass windows listed in Brittany - are no longer protected from the elements.

A €2.4 million restoration project began in 2019, and is scheduled to finish in 2024.

Mr Follett said that as well as the money given, he would also be taking a close interest in the restoration project, and following its progress as much as possible.

Mr Follett moved to Grasse above the Côte d’Azur in France after the success of his 1978 book Eye of the Needle but eventually left after he realised he missed London, and having “an opinion on British politics”.

In a 2012 interview with The Connexion, he said: “I’ve always had strong feelings about politics and that was a big disadvantage of living in a foreign country.

He added: “I don’t speak French very well but I can get by. I still visit and there’s nothing I like better than to go to Paris for a few days...I remain very fond of France and there are a lot of things about France I love.”

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