Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cash-strapped French wine town forced to sell off monuments

SAINT EMILION, France (AFP) ― Residents of Saint Emilion, a hugely popular UNESCO World Heritage site in southwest France, were shocked when their mayor sold a medieval monument to pay off debts.

And while the council has defended the controversial sale as a means of raising much-needed cash for the upkeep of historic sites, it has undertaken to rethink the strategy and find alternative means of funding in future.

“Saint Emilion has a very rich medieval heritage but that leaves them with a lot to do and they don’t have the resources,” was how Francois Gondran, the state architect responsible for Bordeaux and Saint Emilion, explained the sale of the 14th century Cordeliers cloister, home to a sparking wine producer.

“What are expensive to maintain are the ramparts, 80 percent of which date from the Middle Ages. They are very expensive to restore and difficult to access. It involves a lot of man-hours.”

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