Notre Dame Fire Raises Insurance Problems for National Monuments

After the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, the question on insuring national and historical monuments has been raised.

The centuries-old French landmark is not covered by insurance like some chateaux, according to Dominique de la Fouchardiere, head of the SLA Verspieren, a firm specializing in insuring historical monuments and chateaux.

The French Culture Ministry said the state owns 2.7% of the country’s 44,321 listed historical monuments. While the state owns and is responsible for protecting the Medieval landmark, in theory, the archdioceses of Paris are responsible for insuring its interiors.

As of this writing, the archdioceses of Paris have yet to respond regarding the insurance of the artworks and objects in the cathedral’s interiors.

As for the issue of determining the origin of the fire and who is responsible for covering the reconstruction cost of the edifice, it would depend on the courts to decide, Nicolas Kaddeche, a manager at the insurer for artworks Hiscox said.

And with a variety of firms working on the cathedral’s construction and renovation projects, Kaddeche said proving who is ultimately at fault can be a challenge.

In evaluating the value of destroyed features of national monuments, de la Fouchardiere said insurers can end up with a priceless value.

Insurers base their policies on the estimated real value of a property, which should be around the reconstruction cost and not its market value, de la Fouchardiere added.

As for the artworks, Kaddeche said that diverse levels of coverage are possible, from covering only the cost of repairs up to replacement.

In finding out the total cost of the damaged monument, Swiss Re, the Swiss reinsurance firm, said timeless works of art and relics are typically not insured as estimating their value is impossible.

Stephane Bern, who manages several heritage renovation programs across France, estimated the cost to completely rebuild the church to be around $1.13 billion to $2.3 billion.