France’s Rogue Restorationists

Back in 2005, a squad of “cultural guerillas” broke into the Pantheon in Paris, built themselves a hidden work space, and set about restoring the monument’s 160-year-old clock, which had stopped running back in the 1960s. The four-person team, led by a clockmaker, dismantled and rebuilt the massive timepiece — all without being detected by the authorities. In fact, they could have escaped detection all together but decided to tell Pantheon’s administrator so that someone would know to wind the now-working clock. (See images of the clock and the lead clockmaker here.)

But wait, it gets even more awesome and science fictional. These rogue restorationists aren’t lone wolves — they’re part of a clandestine Swiss-French group of renegade historians, urban explorers, cryptologists, architects and cultural bandits. Plus, their logo (at right) is badass too. Here’s a spokesperson, quoted in the Guardian, outlining the superheroic powers of clockmakers:

Getting into the building was the easiest part, according to Klausmann. The squad allowed themselves to be locked into the Panthéon one night, and then identified a side entrance near some stairs leading up to their future hiding place. “Opening a lock is the easiest thing for a clockmaker,” said Klausmann. From then on, they sneaked in day or night under the unsuspecting noses of the Panthéon’s officials.

The umbrella group, also known as Les UX, has some 150 members. According to the Wikipedia, they are “divided into teams: an all-female team specializing in infiltration, a team running an internal messaging system and coded radio network, a team providing a database, a team organizing underground shows, a team doing photography, a team doing restoration.” Yes, an all-female infiltration team.

Beyond the Pantheon operation, which only became public knowledge because the French government sued the restoration team, Les UX is known to have established an underground cinema (which seems, literally, to be built in abandoned tunnels beneath Paris) and completed rogue renovations of a 19th-century government bunker and a 12th-century crypt. (via)

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