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'Adopt-a-bench' scheme to pay for Versailles palace upkeep
9 July 2009
Agence France Presse

History fans and arts patrons are to get the chance to adopt a stone or marble bench in the majestic grounds of the Chateau de Versailles, to help pay for their upkeep.

The adopt-a-bench scheme, announced late Wednesday, follows a similar initiative for statues dotting the royal palace gardens west of Paris, which has restored 86 works since 2005 thanks to private benefactors.

Fifty of the palace's 170 benches -- 15 carved in stone and 35 in marble -- will be offered up to sponsors, asked to donate 3,800 euros (5,300 dollars) per seat in exchange for a small plaque bearing their name at its foot.

"We want this heritage, which is very useful to visitors, to be put back into the best possible condition," the chateau president Jean-Jacques Aillagon said during a tour of the palace grounds.

Aillagon said he expected the adoption scheme to be popular -- pointing out that "a bench is very poetic".

One of France's most visited tourist sites, the Chateau de Versailles in 2003 launched a vast, 20-year restoration programme that draws heavily on high-profile sponsorship from private companies and individuals.

Major restoration works completed so far include the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette's pastoral hideaway in the palace grounds, the royal gate torn down during the French Revolution and the Hall of Mirrors.
 
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