Oliver Corbishley
Jun 10 · 2 min read
Marble workshop at Saint-Pons-de-Thomières. Credit: Département de l’Hérault

The world watched in horror as a devastating fire consumed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 19 of this year. Parisians gathered in the streets and sang hymns to the beloved church and famed Gothic landmark as it burned.

Almost as soon as the fire was extinguished, promises of aid came pouring in from around the globe. Billionaires behind cosmetics giant L’Oreal, luxury brand group LVMH and others immediately stepped forward with pledges of donations.

Iskandar Safa, the head of global shipbuilder Privinvest, which has shipyards in Cherbourg, France, has joined the cause. Safa has offered to donate an unlimited amount of marble from his quarry in southern France to aid the rebuilding of the cathedral. Marble fills the interior of Notre-Dame from columns to statues to the alter.

Safa’s quarry is in Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, Hérault, near the Mediterranean Sea. The 530,000-cubic-foot deposit covers 150 acres and is known for its exceptional and unusually diverse palette of colors, ranging from pearly white to purple to a ruddy peach color.

The quarries were discovered during Roman times and were used for bath tiling and home decoration. In Medieval times, the marble was used for sarcophagi and religious offerings.

In recent history, marble from the quarry has been used for monuments that stand in the Vatican and Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s chateau at Versailles.

In addition to the marble deposit, the quarry at Saint-Pons-de-Thomières is home to a modern studio where sculptors produce monuments both by hand.

The gift of marble for Notre-Dame’s restoration is consistent with Safa’s history of philanthropy.

Safa was born to a Maronite Christian family in Beirut, Lebanon. He has built churches in Lebanon, in the Dominican Republic, where he has a home, and in the south of France.

His pledge of marble is just the latest example of his devotion to France and his faith.

Think Clearly

Politics, Culture, and Everything In Between

Oliver Corbishley

Written by

Think Clearly

Politics, Culture, and Everything In Between

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