Monument historique

Monument historique logo, based on the Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral

Monument historique (French: [mɔnymɑ̃ istɔʁik]) is a designation given to some national heritage sites in France. It may also refer to the state procedure in France by which National Heritage protection is extended to a building, a specific part of a building, a collection of buildings, garden, bridge, or other structure, because of their importance to France's architectural and historical cultural heritage.[1] Both public and privately owned structures may be listed in this way, as well as movable objects. As of 2012 there were 44,236 monuments listed.

Buildings may be given the classification for both their exteriors or interiors, including a building's décor, its furniture, a single room, or even a staircase. An example is the monument historique classification of the décor in the café "Deux Garçons" in Aix-en-Provence whose patrons once included Alphonse de Lamartine, Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne. Some buildings are designated because of their connection to a single personality, such as the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise which is designated an MH because of its connection to the painter Vincent van Gogh. Since the 1990s, a significant number of places have been given the designation because of their historical importance to science.

The MH designation traces its roots to the French Revolution when the government appointed Alexandre Lenoir to specify and safeguard certain structures. Though the first classifications were given in the 19th century by the writer Prosper Mérimée, inspector-general of historical monuments, by a first list established in 1840. In 1851, Mérimée organized the Missions Héliographiques to document France's medieval architecture.

A "monument historique" may be marked by the official logo, distribute by the Union Rempart [fr], a French historical restoration associations union. It consists of a design representing the labyrinth that used to be in Reims Cathedral, which is itself a World Heritage Site. Use of the logo is optional.

Protection

There are two level of protection:

  • The "classement au titre des monuments historiques" is a national level of importance for the objects or buildings ;
  • The "inscription au titre des monuments historiques" is a regional level of importance for the objects or buildings (until 2005 formerly called "inventaire supplémentaire des monuments historiques", ISMH).

These two levels of protection are determined after a thorough historical study by the préfet for the région, or by the Minister of Culture for the national level. They are aided by the advice of a commission named Commission régionale du patrimoine et des sites [fr].

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