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.”


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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