News from Paris

February 21, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower (2/28)

The Slang of the Suburbs (2/25)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

American Squabbles (2/19)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas (2/18)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame

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 Mitouard

Translated by David Sadegh