Until the end of March, at
the Plaza de l'Alma, the pedestal of the Flame of Liberty, a
monument appropriated by the fans of Lady Diana to commemorate
the place of her death, will continue to be surrounded by a construction
fence. "It is true that people are a little surprised at
not being able to find the Flame. But they still come each day,"
explains the owner of a nearby newsstand. Some flowers have been
slid under the fence. Some words have already been grafittied.
The flame of gilded copper has been removed in order to undergo
restoration. But the passionate pilgrimage that caused the need
for this maintenance does not seem to be put out by this fact.
Since August 31, 1997 the day
of the accident that cost the life of the Princess of Wales,
the Plaza has become a place of spontaneous commemoration. "This
has taken on a dimension close to vandalism," explains Guenola
Groud, conservationist of the works of art for the City of Paris.
"The sculpture has been carved, cut, and sometimes even
deformed at the top. As for the lower part, it has had papers
stuck to it, and inscriptions written upon it in paint and ink.
A veritable degredation," she sighed.
The rhythm of restoration of
the city's monuments imposes upkeep every thirty years. For this
monument, only thirteen years after its inauguration by Jacques
Chirac, then mayor of Paris, it has already become necessary
to launch the maintenance. "It is rare to find a monument
in such a state," sighed Yvon Rio, chief of the studio at
the Coubertin Foundation, where this copper sculpture was taken
in December for the four months of restoration.
No one, however, could have
predicted such a destiny for the Flame of Liberty. This actual
size replica of the flame on the Statue of Liberty in New York,
posed on its two meter tall stone pedestal, did not initially
seem so remarkable. Offered by the International Herald Tribune
on the occasion of its centennial, it commemorated the friendship
of the American people towards the French people. Parisiens passed
by without even noticing it... Now it will be necessary to protect
the site from future admirers when the monument is returned at
the end of March, beginning of April.
"After having repaired
the deformations and cleaned the copper, we are going to start
regilding the surface. Then we will work on the stone pedestal,
which must be cleaned as well," explained Yvon Rio. A protective
measure must be passed. "Particularly, we are intending
to put a psychological barrier all around the monument,"
indicates Guenola Groud. It is impossible to put this flame perched
on its pedestal under a glass cover. It measures 4.25 meters
tall. It is impossible to raise it up higher. "We have therefore
decided to surround it with markers and a chain. It is only minimal
protection. But it was already necessary to climb over something
to reach the pedestal." So the fans can still attach their
photos, words, and souvenirs.
Original article by Eric Le
Translated by David Sadegh