We've rounded up five beloved historical places around the world that are at risk of ‘Notre-Dame-like’ damage.
Earlier this week, a fire broke out at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, which significantly damaged the church before it was eventually saved. On the same day, another (less catastrophic) fire erupted at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site. While the fires are not connected, Notre Dame and Al-Aqsa are both are quite old—856 and 984 years old, respectively—and older building materials can be more susceptible to catastrophic damage.
In light of these tragedies, we’re taking a look at other older historical sites around the world that could share a similar fate. We’ve enlisted the help of the World Monuments Watch, a biennial program run by the World Monuments Fund that uses cultural heritage conservation to increase community resilience and enhance social inclusion. The Watch recognizes sites from around the world in need of urgent action, each site telling a local story that carries global significance.
WHERE: St. John’s. Antigua and Barbuda
The Government House has been the official residence of the islands’ Governor General since 1800 and it’s a beautiful example of Georgian architecture with lush, sprawling gardens that make it a popular local attraction. Unfortunately, the interior of the House isn’t open to tourists because it has been damaged by earthquakes and serve heat, neglect, and houses a potentially dangerous electrical system all of which landed it a spot on the WMF’s 2018 watchlist.
Potager du Roi
WHERE: Versailles, France
The kitchen gardens of Versailles not only provided fresh fruit and vegetables for Louis XIV, but they are also listed by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France. Here, you’ll find 400 varieties of fruit trees and historic varieties of fruits and vegetables that you can’t find anywhere else. Unfortunately, the WMF added Potager du Roi to their 2018 watchlist because climate change and pesticides have done such extensive damage that as many as 40% of the Palace of Versailles’ kitchen gardens need to be replaced.
Brussels Palace of Justice
WHERE: Brussels, Belgium
The Brussels Palace of Justice is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in all of Europe (it was once the largest building in the world) and is widely considered among citizens of Belgium to be the most important court building in the country. However, this neglected, deteriorating 19th-century building has been covered in scaffolding (not unlike the scaffolding around Notre Dame before the fire) for 40 years. A 10-year renovation plan has been set to restore the complex, but renovations have yet to begin (even after the WMF added it to their watch list in 2016).
San Estevan del Rey Mission Church
WHERE: Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, United States
This 17th-century church—recognized for its unique mix of colonial and Puebloan architecture—was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970 and is located in a pueblo atop a 350-foot high mesa known as “Sky City.” Though the pueblo can be visited today (for a small fee), the WMF included the church on their watchlist because the erosion of its walls and poor roof drainage threaten to damage the building irreparably.
Church and Convent of San Francisco
WHERE: Quito, Ecuador
The oldest and most religious site in Ecuador, the Church and Convent of San Francisco is a vast complex that houses over 3,500 pieces of religious art that was built in the 15th century. While efforts have been made to restore parts of its structures that have been affected by seismic movements over the years (including a full restoration in 2002), much work still needs to be done. Over half of the complex’s artistic collections still need to be conserved, according to the WMF, which added it to their list in 2016.