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Woman wills more than $5 million for restoration of church

paris, église, la madeleine

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La Madeleine, VIIIe arrondissement.

Cécile Séveirac - published on 06/10/24

Marie-Amélie Daout left more than $5 million dollars to the Church of the Madeleine, where she used to meet her husband at lunchtime, for a needed restoration.

Roughly €5.3 million—nearly $5.8 million: this is the value of the assets that Marie-Amélie Daout gave to the city of Paris. The amount was specified in her will, written on February 20, 1974. But the bequest was not to be used for just any purpose: the nonagenarian, who died in 2020, said that she wished to leave all her wealth for the restoration of a well-known Parisian church, the Madeleine (8th arrondissement), reports Le Parisien. The value was revealed this year because the city has only just authorized the auctioning off of all the property she left the city, along with the payout of her life insurance policy. (In France, most historic churches belong to the local civil authorities, not to the Church.)

So why the Madeleine? “It’s where she used to meet her husband at lunchtime, when he wasn’t away,” said Carmen Marti-Sarteur, the wealthy donor’s neighbor, to the French news outlet.

église de la madeleine à paris
Interior of the Church of the Madeleine à Paris.

Marie-Amélie Daout, formerly an executive assistant in a ministry in the 8th arrondissement, married a bodyguard of General de Gaulle who worked at the Élysée Palace. Described as humble by those who knew her, Marie-Amélie Daout had no children. After a fall, she finally left her Paris apartment to move into a retirement home in the Marais district, before passing away in 2020 after a stroke, in the midst of the COVID pandemic confinement.

Masses said for the donor

Restoration work on this iconic Parisian church is scheduled to begin in spring 2024. The main façade, on rue Royale, has been as good as new since December 2023, after two years of work. The other three will be renovated over the coming years, at a total cost of 20 million euros. It remains to be seen whether the money Daout left the city will be allocated to the restoration of the church alone, as requested. However, the City of Paris has confirmed that “the wishes of donors will be respected.” Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, parish priest of the Madeleine, expressed his gratitude to the nonagenarian for the generosity of her bequest. “We’ll be saying Masses for this passionate lover of the Madeleine,” he assures Le Parisien. A holy return on investment!

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