The bells, the bells: Notre-Dame's crumbling French gargoyles need help

Some of the gargoyles at the Notre Dame Cathedral are crumbling away.
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

Some of the gargoyles at the Notre Dame Cathedral are crumbling away.

The Archbishop of Paris is on a €100 million euro (NZ$166 million) fundraising drive to save the crumbling gargoyles and gothic arches of the storied Notre-Dame cathedral.

Every year 12-14 million people visit the 12th century Parisian landmark on an island in the Seine river. Building began around 850 years ago, but pollution and the passing of time have chipped off large chunks of stone.

"If we don't do these restoration works, we'll risk seeing parts of the exterior structure begin to fall. This is a very serious risk," said Michel Picaud, president of the Friends of Notre-Dame charity set up by the archbishop.

The 854-year old Notre-Dame cathedral is France's most-visited monument.
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

The 854-year old Notre-Dame cathedral is France's most-visited monument.

Church officials, who have created what they are calling a "stone cemetery" from fallen masonry, say the cathedral remains safe to visit.

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Entry to the cathedral is free and the French state, which owns the building, devotes €2m euros a year to repairs. But that is not enough to embark on major restoration works, the last of which were carried out during the 1800s, officials at the cathedral and charity said.

Notre-Dame has long drawn tourists from around the world. It is most famous in popular culture as the locale for 19th century author Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and films of the same name including the 1939 classic with Charles Laughton and the 1996 Disney musical animation.

The latter in particular raised the cathedral's profile for modern-day tourists from China to the United States.

Officials want $166 million to repair everything from damaged arches and statutes to broken down gargoyles.
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

Officials want $166 million to repair everything from damaged arches and statutes to broken down gargoyles.

"It's the movie for me, I just think of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and the book as well. After reading that book I actually really wanted to come see it," said US tourist Claire Huber as she visited the cathedral.

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Church authorities hope the cathedral's worldwide fame will attract donors, particularly from the United States.

"Gargoyles are what people want to see when they come to Paris. If there are no more gargoyles, what will they see?" Notre-Dame communications chief Andre Finot said.

A gargoyle and part of a damaged pinnacle at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

A gargoyle and part of a damaged pinnacle at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

 - Reuters

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