France Celebrates European Heritage Days
September 15-16, France along with 50 other European countries participated in the “Journées Européennes du Patrimoine” or European Heritage Days. This year’s theme, “The Art of Sharing,” celebrated the richness and diversity of cultures across the continent.
Throughout France and its territories, 12 million visitors attended 24,000 events showcasing France’s unique history and giving new and exceptional access to historical and cultural sites. Events included lectures, concerts, and the opening of sites not normally accessible to the public.
France hosted the first “Journée Portes Ouvertes”, sometimes referred to as ‘Open Doors Day’ in 1985, which was followed by similar celebrations of neighboring countries. The weekend is also used as an opportunity to make the public aware of the financial needs to properly preserve these heritage sites.
Unique sites and activities
Throughout France, a variety of events allowed visitors to explore different elements of the country’s cultural heritage. At the Elysée palace, President Macron decided to host a special opening of the presidential kitchen, wine cellar, and florist to a few hundred visitors. The kitchen, which was once the horse stables, is now host to a 28 person staff led by chef Guillaume Gomez. The presidential wine cellar, behind a locked door, holds over 14,000 bottles of exclusively French wines, the oldest of which is a 1906 Sauternes. The 20,000 visitors were able to visit a gift shop selling Elysée-themed souvenirs whose proceeds will support renovations over the next years.
In Marseille, the city hosted ‘la parade des Barquettes’ a boat parade all weekend showcasing the city’s historic small wooden boats in the Old Port. Marseille is very proud of their small traditional boats and has protected their place in the port for years. Just outside of Paris in Forêt Notre-Dame in Lésigny, visitors could explore WWI bunkers 75 meters underground.
The U.S. State Department showcased their restoration of the Hôtel de Talleyrand in Paris.The building was designed by Louis XV’s architect, hosted negotiations between Czar Alexander I of Russia and Lord Wellington of Great Britain, and acted as the headquarters of the Marshall Plan from 1947-1952.
Special focus this year was given to youth involvement with many sites opening a day early on Friday the 14th to allow students to participate in specially curated events aimed to engage a younger audience.
Saving Heritage in Danger
One of the purposes of the European Heritage Days this year is to educate the public on the financial necessities to properly preserve these heritage sites. President Emmanuel Macron and Stéphane Bern, historian, journalist, and television host, created a Heritage Lottery to raise money to help restore what they have called “patrimoine en peril” or “heritage in danger.” Two and a half million tickets were sold at €15 to fund the lottery and the restoration of 269 endangered sites. Sites were selected based on:
- Their cultural and historical significance
- The urgency of the restoration due to state of the edifice
- Creating an overall geographic balance while privileging projects to help revitalize rural and smaller towns
- Projects that showcase the edifice or its new use and the economic benefits expected, especially in the realm of local tourism development
Bern wanted to ensure that all 13 administrative regions and overseas territories were included in consideration, as well as all types of heritage, working class, industrial, architectural, artisanal, and agricultural. Of those 269 sites, 18 were deemed emblematic and in the most pressing danger and will receive immediate financial assistance.
Some of the projects that they have targeted for assistance from the lottery include:
The European Heritage Days take place each year, and the next edition in France will be held in September, 2019. ◣