Published: 2017-08-29 23:13:15 BdST
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.
Church officials, who have created what they are calling a “stone cemetery” from fallen masonry, say the cathedral remains safe to visit.
Entry to the cathedral is free and the French state, which owns the building, devotes 2 million 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.
The latter in particular raised the cathedral’s profile for modern-day tourists from China to the United States.
“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.
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.