Atlas Magazine May 2019

The impossible transfer of risks

The history of historical monuments has been marred with fire, destruction and also associated with reconstruction. In France, as everywhere in the world, such incidents occurred countless times. The cathedrals of Reims in 1914, of Nantes in 1972 and recently of Paris fell prey to the ravaging effect of flames.
Atlas Magazine N°161, May 2019 Click to download
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In addition to these destructions or fires of religious buildings, ranking among historical monuments, there is a long list of worship places of lesser fame, also affected by devastating events.

Like any building, residential, industrial or cultural, a religious property or a historical monument is vulnerable to fire, especially when it is old and open to the public. The slightest carelessness of a third party visitor, a maintenance agent, a worker present on the site can turn into disaster.

The fire of Notre-Dame de Paris is a clear reminder that the risk can become so great that the State is sometimes left at a loss, helplessly seeking ways of answering the big questions: How to insure such goods? How much are the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame de Paris, and the Eiffel Tower worth?

No one can say but one thing is certain: the State, which owns several hundred prestigious buildings and the treasures they house, cannot afford to pay the insurance premiums for its cultural and religious property. Yet, for historical monuments the danger is permanent. The State is not only required to safeguard the building and its treasures but also face its responsibilities in the event of an accident or fire to its own employees and to the thousands of annual people who visit those sites.

Faced with its security and budgetary constraints that threaten its capital, the State has changed its position. It remains its own insurer for the built sites and authorize, in some cases, the transfer to the insurance market of some of its risks of liability and damage to the content of these buildings. Consequently, for Notre Dame de Paris, the State is its own insurer for the building whereas the archbishopric of Paris is supposed to insure the property located inside the cathedral by means of conventional policies.

When the incident is out of proportion and the transfer of risk is insufficient, the State calls on the generosity of donors to supplement the lack of financial means.

Atlas Magazine N°161, May 2019

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