If you want to appreciate the importance of heritage in France, take a look at the first 18 sites selected to benefit from the funds raised by the country’s annual cultural heritage lottery.
Known as “Heritage Loto”, the program sells lottery tickets to raise funds to restore churches, buildings and other architectural gems of cultural significance. Most of the selected sites do not boast of the kind of international renown that attracts millions of tourists like the Eiffel Tower.
On the contrary, the selected sites tend to be less known elements of the country’s heritage, unknown even to most French people. The country invests huge sums each year to preserve these buildings considered important for the maintenance of the cultural history of France and to attract tourists to less frequented regions.
The first lottery was held in 2018 and raised 24 million euros ($ 27 million). The second edition in 2019 brought in 22 million euros ($ 24.8 million). Sites are selected based on their ability to demonstrate the potential for economic impact as well as to submit a solid plan on how the money received could be spent.
The latest batch of sites was unveiled this week by Stéphane Bern during a press conference at the Ministry of Culture. Bern is a television host who has effectively become Mr. French Heritage.
President Emmanuel Macron appointed him as special cultural advisor. Bern is also overseeing a foundation that raises funds to save cultural sites from ruin and is a popular history TV host and a contest to select the favorite village of the year in France. He also co-hosts the annual broadcast in French of the Eurovision song contest when he is forced to spend the evening lamenting how unjust it is that the French never win.
Later this year, the lottery will announce 101 other sites that will also be eligible to receive cash. But the first 18 sites receive a certain priority in terms of funding. And they get additional promotion because their images will appear on lottery tickets sold in tobacco stores.
The 18 sites include 9 religious buildings, a lighthouse, a barn, a Roman theater and a suspension bridge. While 13 have an official designation of historic site, the other 5 do not. Ultimately, 5 draws will take place between September 9 and 19, the size of the winnings remaining to be determined.
To give you a little travel inspiration, discover the 18 selected sites, one from each region of France:
Saint-Étienne de Mélas au Teil church (Ardèche department) in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
Protestant Saint-Martin temple in Montbéliard (Doubs) in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.
Lighthouse, fort and barracks of Ile-aux-Moines (Morbihan) in Brittany.
Grange Pyramide in Jars (Cher) in the Center-Val de Loire.
Convent of the Daughters of Mary of Ile Rousse (Haute-Corse) in Corsica.
A tobacco drying barn which is part of the Ungersheim ecomuseum in Alsace from Lipsheim (Haut-Rhin) in the Great East.
Saint-Pierre church of Dompierre-sur-Authie (department of the Somme) in Hauts-de-France.
Fort of Cormeilles-en-Parisis (Val-d’Oise department) in Ile-de-France.
Roman theater of Lillebonne (department of Seine-Maritime) in Normandy.
Viaduc des Rochers Noirs (Corrèze) in New Aquitaine.
Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse Abbey (Aude department) in Occitanie.
Former courthouse in Baugé-en-Anjou (Maine-et-Loire) in Pays de la Loire.
Notre-Dame-du-Réal Cathedral in Embrun (Department of Hautes-Alpes) in Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur.
Habitation Zévallos de Moule in Guadeloupe.
Church of the Sacred Heart of Balata in Martinique.
Church of St. Joseph of Iracoubo in French Guiana.
Suspension bridge over the East River in Reunion.
Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.