Attention, Americans: Notre Dame needs your help. A $120 million fundraising drive is underway to save the Gothic cathedral's famous façade and sneering gargoyles. The target audience: the 14 million visitors who flock to the 850-year-old landmark each year, a huge chunk of them from the US. "The cathedral is a big part of Paris' history but also a big part of American history in the city," Michel Picard, the head of the Friends of Notre Dame foundation, told the Local in June. The foundation, created last year by the archbishop of Paris, gained tax-exempt status in the US in May, and the charity is planning a fundraising trip next spring to several US cities, including Boston, Chicago, and LA.
The French government contributes about $2.4 million annually for the upkeep of the double-towered edifice, an amount that can't fund the major restoration needed. A "stone cemetery" of toppled masonry is a testament to the "serious risk" the cathedral is facing if repairs don't happen soon to the worn and degraded exterior, Picard tells Reuters. Otherwise, "we’ll risk seeing parts of the exterior structure begin to fall," he says. Time looks at two reasons for the deterioration: Traffic-related "pollution is the biggest culprit," per the architect in chief of historic monuments in France. The other is a bit counter-intuitive: Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame drew attention to the building's then-deteriorating condition and spurred an 1844 restoration—but low-quality materials were used that haven't withstood the test of time. You can donate here. (Read more Paris stories.)