According to the Observatory of Religious Heritage, quoted by the Senate report of July 6, up to 5,000 churches could be abandoned or destroyed by 2030. This heritage crisis affects our entire territory, particularly rural areas. Recent illustration: the Saint-Martin church in Nuzéjouls closed to the public and to the faithful due to the risk of collapse. The reasons for this disaster are many and profound.
A spiritual cause first of all, secularization. The more a church is frequented, the more it is maintained and the sooner we can detect signs of fragility. But there are fewer and fewer priests and believers, and church attendance is too low. While we have the second most important religious heritage in Europe after Italy, we are the second least practicing country in Europe after Denmark. A cause of identity then, uprooting, which is expressed through rural exodus, mass immigration, Americanization and individualism.
The merger of the municipalities leads to the abandonment of the buildings which find themselves far from the new urban heart. Small towns are particularly affected, they have neither the means of the big ones, nor the popular roots of the villages
An institutional cause on which you can act! The merger of the municipalities leads to the abandonment of the buildings which find themselves far from the new urban heart. Small towns are particularly affected, they have neither the means of the big ones, nor the popular roots of the villages. According to the Observatory of Religious Heritage, France has about 100,000 religious buildings on its territory, the vast majority Catholic, but only 15,000 are protected as historical monuments. The Mérimée base has more than 8,000 other monuments of heritage interest that are not protected. It is more than likely that this figure is greatly underestimated. However there are no official data because as absurd as it may seem, we do not know the exact number of churches that we have on our territory, the last inventory largely incomplete, and which had to be renewed and completed, having been made in the 80’s.
Finally, an economic cause. Since 1908, all the parish churches built before 1905 (including those rebuilt after the world wars) belong to the municipalities. However, these municipalities, sometimes villages, do not have the necessary means to ensure their regular maintenance, particularly if their churches are not protected as historical monuments, in which case the State does not give them any specific subsidy. Especially since the municipalities have no obligation to maintain unprotected churches, as long as this does not pose a security risk to the faithful. The regions and departments can help the municipalities, but the scheme depends on each community and the town hall must provide 20% of the total amount of the work (L-1111-10 of the CGCT). Often municipalities have to call on associations for help. Going around the table with the actors is not easy for the mayors who are not very comfortable with these questions.
“What a solid and complete thought it raises before us, this old building built to be beaten by the winds and to express in its play of shadow and light the most delicate aspirations, all the pulsations of the soul. It is charged with the thoughts of all, of all in their highest moment. Much better than notions, we receive from them tone, more energy, strength, brilliance, a more tense soul, better capable of serious thoughts. It seems that at this moment we become aware of the treasures buried in our memory and that we carry to the roots of our spiritual life. And I’m not talking to you about religion. But the rich past envelops us and puts us in the best moral disposition. What we feel is not a vague intoxication without a cause, it is the joy of living with a community and of associating the humility of a human life with the vast experience of centuries.. These words from Maurice Barrès, describing his meeting with a church, sum up the importance of the fight for preservation that I am defending before you.
France was not born in 1905. France is not secular, it is the current Republic that is. France has known, and was built with, 1500 years of Christianity. Catholicism is the foundation of our cultural, spiritual, moral and artistic identity. This Catholic identity has an immaterial side but also a very material existence.
These thousands of churches convey both our common identity as French people, but also all the marvelous diversity of our country.
The churches are the most obvious marker by their subtle presence throughout our territory. These thousands of churches convey both our common identity as French people, but also all the marvelous diversity of our country thanks to the varied treasures that are the Romanesque churches of Auvergne, the fortified churches of Thiérache, the hall churches du Nord or the Breton enclosures… Seven cities in France bear the nickname of “city of a hundred steeples” (Reims, Rouen, Arras, Dijon, Caen, Troyes and Poitiers), the most popular street name in France is “rue de the church”. The churches, in the heart of the villages, were often established there long before the town halls. For the mind existed before the state. The French love their churches, because they remind them of who they are. They are places of spiritual education in greatness of soul, places where the spirit of our ancestors still blows a little, places that offer a little beauty to everyone’s window. They are spaces for meeting, sharing and exchange. All are important, because each village knows and loves its church better than a more beautiful one that it ignores.
Dear deputies, you are the representatives of a people, the French people. This people does not want to renounce its existence, its life, its history and its spirit. Saving the churches is necessary and fortunately possible!
At Force Solidaire, we offer many measures to guarantee their upkeep: classify or register all the churches in France built before 1905 as historical monuments, or create a new common protection regime; keep the mayors in charge of the works but give the departments responsibility for their financing; impose on the CAUE the mission of monitoring the state of the churches; promote certain shared uses in accordance with the spiritual vocation of the church…
Read also : Will there still be Catholics at Christmas?
Whether these proposals are followed or others are imagined, they are, today, impossible to put in place. For one and only reason already mentioned. We do not have a reliable and complete inventory of our churches. Prerequisite for any implementation of protection policies.
This is why, patriotic deputies, I address a request to you today. Ask the following question to the government, during a public session: “When will you carry out a national and complete inventory of all our churches to ensure their protection? » I am at your entire disposal, and I am certain that the associations specializing in the subject (all more competent than I am on this subject) also, to help you in this mission or in any step that you will undertake. to save our churches (commission of inquiry, contact with local elected officials, etc.).
Save our churches, save France.