Ken Follett gives book proceeds to French cathedral restoration fund

Author donates proceeds from book about Notre-Dame fire to project to save cathedral in Brittany

The bestselling British author Ken Follett is donating the proceeds from his book about the Notre-Dame fire to restore a cathedral in Brittany.

Follet is giving €148,000 (£127,000) towards a multimillion euro project to save Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne cathedral.

The sum is what he has made from his book Notre-Dame: a Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, written after the Paris monument was ravaged by fire in April 2019, which has sold 113,000 copies worldwide.

The money is being given to the French Fondation du patrimoine (Patrimony Foundation) and will be put towards the €2.4m cost of restoring the Brittany cathedral, a Gothic monument listed since 1840, but in a parlous state of repair.

Ken Follett.
Ken Follett. Photograph: Beatriz Velasco/Getty Images

“I didn’t want to profit from the [Notre-Dame] fire,” French media quoted Follett saying after the donation was revealed. “Also, these ancient buildings have given me enormous pleasure over the years. They inspired me to write Pillars of the Earth, my most-read book.”

Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne, in the Ille-et-Vilaine department east of Saint-Malo, was constructed in honour of Saint Samson, a bishop monk from Cardiff in Wales who arrived in the area in 548 and built a monastery. Dol became the religious capital of Brittany and a cathedral was built, only to be destroyed in 1014 by Vikings, after which another cathedral was built on the site. In 1203, the English King John, known in France as Jean sans Terre (John with no land) set fire to the Dol cathedral but, fearing for his soul, then agreed to finance its reconstruction. After the revolution, it became a “Temple of Reason” then stables and a warehouse. It is undergoing a major renovation expected to be completed in 2024.

Follett said he had chosen the Dol cathedral because “It’s not very far from me in England”.

“I want to visit the cathedral, I want to see how they spent this money to restore it, so it’s convenient not to be too far away,” he said.

Denis Rapinel, the mayor of Dol-de-Bretagne, said he was delighted with the donation. “It’s a bit like Christmas in March with something that has fallen from the sky. The cathedral is a symbolic building that contributes to Dol’s fame, but it’s an important burden for a small town of 6,000 inhabitants,” he said.

“Ken Follett’s generosity will help speed up the pace of the [renovation] work. We were able to finance between €150,000-€200,000 a year so it means we can bring forward the completion of the works by about a year.”

Contributor

Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Extraordinary’: ancient tombs and statues unearthed beneath Notre Dame Cathedral
Archaeological dig also finds body-shaped lead sarcophagus buried at the heart of the fire-ravaged monument

Kim Willsher in Paris

14, Apr, 2022 @5:41 PM

Article image
Notre Dame cathedral sealed off for huge lead decontamination operation
Area around site sealed off for 10 days to remove hazardous dust that has settled since fire in April

Kim Willsher

13, Aug, 2019 @11:36 AM

Article image
Dismantling of Notre Dame Cathedral organ begins after 2019 fire
Paris instrument with 8,000 pipes and five keyboards will be cleaned and repaired

Kim Willsher in Paris

03, Aug, 2020 @10:50 AM

Article image
Victor Hugo's Notre Dame novel tops bestseller list after fire
Different editions of author’s 19th-century classic in five of top 10 slots on Amazon France

Jon Henley in Paris

17, Apr, 2019 @9:36 AM

Article image
Notre Dame Cathedral ‘not saved yet’ and still at risk of collapse
Head of restoration says removal of fused scaffolding may destroy vaulted ceiling

Kim Willsher

05, Jan, 2020 @3:33 PM

Article image
Notre Dame: time to call in the French builders with medieval skills
Artisans creating a ‘13th-century’ castle in Burgundy might well be the ideal team to restore the cathedral

Kim Willsher in Burgundy

06, May, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
One year after Notre Dame fire, officials struggle to keep restoration on track
Cathedral can still be repaired by 2024, says general, but decisions must be made fast

Kim Willsher

14, Apr, 2020 @3:59 PM

Article image
Notre Dame fire: Macron pledges to rebuild devastated Paris cathedral
Spire of centuries-old landmark destroyed after flames burst through the roof

Angelique Chrisafis and Jon Henley in Paris

16, Apr, 2019 @5:33 AM

Article image
Notre Dame Cathedral fire – a visual guide and timeline
How the devastating fire at the historic monument in the heart of Paris took hold and spread

Jon Henley in Paris

16, Apr, 2019 @1:29 PM

Article image
Cell of French women guided by Isis behind failed Notre Dame attack
Police say another operation was planned by group, one of whom had been engaged to two men who carried out deadly attacks

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

09, Sep, 2016 @6:33 PM