A multimillion-dollar project to save a cathedral in France has received a major donation from British author Ken Follett, whose historical fiction has itself often paid homage to medieval architecture. Per a report in the Guardian, he put the proceeds from his book about the fire that ravaged Notre-Dame in 2019 toward a restoration campaign at Brittany’s Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne. The sum, about €148,000 (£127,000), will go to the Fondation du patrimoine, which will direct the money to the campaign.
“It’s a bit like Christmas in March with something that has fallen from the sky,” Denis Rapinel, the mayor of Dol-de-Bretagne, said. “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.”
Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne, situated in the Ille-et-Vilaine department east of Saint-Malo, was dedicated in honor of Samson of Dol, a bishop monk from Wales who became one of Brittany’s founding saints. For a time, Dol functioned as the region’s religious capital and the cathedral its seat of power. But the structure was razed first by the Vikings, leading to the construction of a new Romanesque cathedral on its site. During the French Revolution, the landmark, known as the Temple of Reason, was looted, leaving the cathedral badly damaged. It was used as a stable, then as a warehouse.
The cathedral is one of only a few religious structures in Brittany to still retain stained glass windows from the 13th century, as well as fragments added during the 14th and 15th centuries. Also throughout its naves are two precious wooden sculptures dating from the 16th century, figurines of Christ in the moments before cruxifixction, and the Virgin Mary. The latest restoration is set to be completed in 2024.