For more than a year, all sectors of the economy in France have been facing an unprecedented crisis. Culture and heritage are particularly affected by the restrictions and these have severely affected the revenues of many sites and monuments that are private to visitors1. However, the exceptional length of the closures and the distress of major heritage sites are only salient elements, visible in the media, around a constellation of restoration sites and projects impacted by the health crisis.
Additional support for heritage gems
The Ministry of Culture has certainly reacted by announcing last November aid for heritage as part of the recovery plan: in total, 160 million euros to “support investment in historical monuments, regional museums, archives and live performance equipment ”2. On this envelope, 120 million euros are intended for the restoration and enhancement of heritage, with the “cathedral plan” (€ 80m) and 40 million intended for the restoration of historic monuments belonging to local authorities and private owners.
Major projects and rural heritage in the face of the health crisis
But for a large part, the very rich built heritage of France consists of churches and chapels, often owned by municipalities which are responsible for and must ensure their maintenance, with the support of other communities and private actors (Safeguarding French Art, Heritage Foundation and other patrons). These buildings, strong identity markers of our villages, and which are often the most conspicuous heritage object, are however the poor relation of a recovery plan focused on the most remarkable sites.
The effect to be feared for this heritage, depending on the budgets of the municipalities, is a redirection of expenditure towards more needy items, such as health, social or even education. However, delaying the restoration means taking the risk of seeing the bill climb significantly a few years later. A budgetary burden which therefore risks weighing in the longer term on the municipalities, at the expense of this heritage, which is nevertheless a vector of cultural and economic attractiveness. We will add the paradigm shift in terms of patronage, where we can see a decline in interest in culture and heritage in favor of more current issues. Thus, a study carried out by ADMICAL on the impact of the Covid on sponsorship3 shows that 41% of companies have considered their support policy, suggesting a drop in aid from companies in favor of “small” assets.
Municipalities committed to the preservation of heritage
However, this prognosis should be qualified: heritage support associations have not recorded a drop in requests for assistance. On the contrary, mayors often maintain a concern for heritage despite a degraded context. Among the many requests for aid processed in 2020, we will take the example of the municipality of Montiers (670 inhabitants), which is fighting for the preservation of the Saint-Sulpice church and which renewed its commitment in 2021 after leading work for the protection of the masonry and the covering of the choir, supported to the tune of € 15,000 by the Safeguard.
While waiting to see the longer-term effects of the crisis on this category of the heritage of our territories, elected officials can ensure the unfailing support of associations and foundations dedicated to the preservation of this collective heritage.
If culture and heritage are the second major focus of sponsorship commitment, only 9% of companies in this group make the preservation of built and landscaped heritage a priority.
1 The example of private castles in the Loire Valley summarizes the situation of many sites: https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/centre-val-de-loire/indre-loire/covid-19-le- blues-des-chateaux-prives-du-center-val-de-loire-1926193.html 2 Press release from the Ministry of Culture, November 25, 2020 https://www.culture.gouv.fr/Presse/Communiques- de-presse / 160-million-euros-to-relaunch-investment-in-the-territories 3 According to the study “Covid 19: First impacts on the commitment of patrons”, carried out by ADMICAL in June 2020. https://admical.org/sites/default/files/uploads/etude_covid_vf_23.06_0.pdf
© Town Hall of Montiers